Charles Xue, a Chinese-American billionaire investor, is attending the Crypto Friends ICO Hypethon, which takes place in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on Aug. 16 and 17. Cointelegraph reached out to him to discuss his plans for the event and his take on the cryptocurrency market in China.
Cointelegraph: So first of all, we are very interested in how you became engaged in Bitcoin? Tell us your story.
Charles Xue: I had very little knowledge of Bitcoin, and I had many friends who had bought it, and I hadn't done anything for a while. My first experience with the cryptocurrency was actually when the company that I was in asked me to help them to promote their course in Thailand about two years ago.
I agreed to be their adviser and I helped them understand their business better - I think it's fascinating. At the time, Bitcoin was three Chinese cents per coin, so I asked people to sell me some. Since then, the price went up a hundred times.
CT: Have you heard about, or participated in any ICOs? You must have had a lot of experience investing in IPOs. What are the key differences between the two concepts, in your opinion?
CX: Yes, I have been paying attention to several ICOs, and there are many many differences. An initial public offering is a stock offering for an organization or company. But an ICO is generally more like a foundation without the fixed legal structure of a registered company. By the same token, you don't have ACC and you don't have anyone monitor you.
CT: From an investor’s standpoint, which is more risky: ICO or IPO?
CX: Certainly ICOs have a lot more risk because, especially nowadays, there are a great many deals. Too many ICOs are popping up on the street, and as far as I know, some of them are done by people who are simply not ready - they don't have a solid CX list, they don't have solid or even basic experience, and they don’t have solid tools. So a lot of them are just counting on hype to carry them.
CT: What do you think will the likely regulatory framework for ICOs be? Will they become completely legal, or are they going to remain in the current gray area?
CX: It's very hard to say. I think the authorities are certainly watching what is happening. Currently, I think that it’s not such a popular thing as to cause widespread tension, but I think eventually the government will do something. But what they will do is hard to say.
CT: Imagine yourself in a government position. What would you do?
CX: What I would suggest is to keep trying, learning and experimenting. I think the government's biggest concern is that some naive people are going to invest a lot of their money in this speculative market and lose. So the qualification for the investor would be always a concern, from a government’s standpoint.
Number two is how do I make the industry more self-disciplined? Self-discipline needs to be promoted and it needs to be rewarded.
CT: As an investor, how would you choose which ICO to invest in?
CX: I just have to see the team, it's not different from when I invest in a regular company. I'll talk to the owners, I'll talk to the team, I'll have to go through their business plans, I’ll have to ensure that they have their solid pack of knowledge, and I’ll go through a lot of due diligence. Following the due diligence is the key.
CT: So you are coming to the Hypethon in Saint Petersburg on August 16 and 17. What are your plans for the event?
CX: My goal is to get to know the people from around the world and then listen to their perspective. I'll try to meet founders of the ICOs and I'd like to learn from them and their successes and mistakes. I'll try to learn my lessons and bring them back to China.
CT: So about China - what do you think about their perspectives on the Bitcoin market? Will they spearhead its development?
CX: I don't think so. Everything can happen, but I think it might take some time.
CT: But the major shares of mining power and trading volume are located in China. Don’t you think that that will have some impact?
CX: Bitcoin has reached a historical high recently, they have done the fork, and a lot of other events have taken place too. I think that they want to catch more public attention, yet the level of awareness in China is still very, very low. The majority of people - I would say 70 to 80 percent - have never heard of Bitcoin before.
CT: So, China still has a lot of room to grow?
CX: Yeah, absolutely. I think the most optimistic estimate is that there are just 5 mln people who watch and participate in any way in the Bitcoin market. I think even that number is too high.
CT: What do you think is driving the Chinese to learn and engage in Bitcoin?
CX: I am a history major so I know little about programmers, miners, hackers, and such. I can only analyse this from a historical point of view. And history shows that Chinese people are very, very curious about anything that comes from the West. A good deal of learning from the West has resulted in a real economic miracle which is unbelievable from everybody’s point of view. I think the government will try to regulate this to protect small investors, that's their main concern.
CT: Do you invest all over the world? Or do you focus on Chinese companies?
CX: Chinese companies are the vast majority of my investments.
CT: So are you going to invest in any of the ICOs, or maybe you have invested already?
CX: Yes, I have a dozen companies I've invested in the last thirty days. Here are just some of the names: Vechain, QTUM, InkChain.