It has been a thoroughly exciting year for Aurélien Menant, founder and CEO of Gatecoin, the exchange which will offer banking quality digital currency trading guaranteed through partnerships with financial institutions.
Gatecoin was the first licensed digital currency exchange in Asia, and its aims include fulfilling all the requirements set by Hong Kong’s financial regulators as well as offering the advantages associated with Bitcoin transactions.
Aurélien and his team are currently working on the final release version which should launch next quarter. Additionally, he is developing bitcharities.org, which will allow charitable organizations around the globe to receive Bitcoin donations.
Cointelegraph caught up with Aurélien to get an update on progress and ask his views on the rapidly changing Asian Bitcoin scene.
CT: Was there something which really inspired you to work in cryptocurrency full time?
AM: I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur. My career plan was to work for a few years in investment banking, then in Private Equity and finally set up my company. I was very frustrated not be old enough to have participated in the .com boom in the late 90’s.
Being interested in computer science and finance, I was following Bitcoin closely. In my opinion it is as disruptive as email services or online shops have been twenty years ago. So when I saw it taking off in early 2013, I thought it was worth taking the risk of leaving my job and being part of this adventure.
CT: How do you intend to inform the public at large about the opportunities Gatecoin offers?
AM: So far we are not operating so the communication is limited and we are focusing mostly on the local scene. We do interviews and we participate in events like the recent Bitcoin debate at Startup Asia Singapore that was organized by Tech in Asia or the Hong Kong inside Bitcoin event that will take place in June. I am also one of the co-founders of the Hong Kong Bitcoin Association that aims at promoting Bitcoin in the region and gives us more exposure.
Yet, the global audience is not overlooked, since information about those major events are often released online. Plus, we already have a good social media presence.
Our international credibility is also greatly leveraged by being part of a renowned incubator such as the Hong-Kong Science & Technology Park.
Once we will be operating, we will deploy a global marketing plan and drastically increase our efforts to be active on social media, forums, tech and Bitcoin-related events and press to be known from the public at large.
We profoundly believe that collaborating and communicating our key-information about our new projects and offers to the tech and Bitcoin-related press is a great way to inform a global audience and we definitely want to improve this communication channel.
In addition to that, we are developing ways to stimulate the Word-of-Mouth and get Gatecoin viral, because believe it or not, the most efficient communication channel is your friends and relatives!
CT: How do you feel about the future for Bitcoin in Asia now that China is attempting to seriously crack down on what private investors can do with it?
AM: It is actually hard to say, as regulations on Bitcoin are changing very fast and are not always clearly stated. For instance, a few months ago, Bitcoin was banned in Thailand and authorized in Vietnam. Now it is the contrary.
India, China and Russia, the three biggest countries of the region also adopted hostile stances on Bitcoin. On one hand one could consider this is a loss of opportunity. On the other hand, being incorporated in HK could represent for us an edge and allow us to deal with citizens from those countries. Therefore, those regulations and bans need to be clarified for us to know if we are actually allowed to work with people from those countries or not.
Whatever happens in those countries, there are still lots of countries with strong potential for Bitcoin and more open minded regulations: Countries with tech friendly citizens such as South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong, or countries with low banking penetration and important international transfer volumes such as Philippines, Indonesia or Thailand.
CT: Can you tell us a little about how BitCharities.org is progressing, and what makes it stand out from the other services out there?
Bitcharities.org is currently on a stand-by phase since we first need to have a working back office to operate it.
We intend to have it within a month and to release an alpha version of bitcharities.org that will already allow people to send bitcoins to the charities that will have registered on it. Then we will raise funds through donations and crowd funding in order to order a more sophisticated site.
Our goal with bitcharities.org is to become the AngelList of charities, which does not exist at the moment.
On top of promoting charities and allowing donators to browse them, our system will allow the charities to receive Bitcoin but also fiat transfers internationally, with almost 0 fees, which is not possible on other donations platforms.
CT: How do you think the future will allow for the banking system to integrate with cryptocurrencies?
AM: Once again, it is hard to say, but here are a few “predictions” of my own:
In the short to mid-term, major banks will only integrate crypto currencies for their own internal use, in the same way as JP Morgan is working on at the moment.
Unfortunately, I am afraid it will take more time for major banks to open bank accounts to Bitcoin related businesses, unless we get clear specific regulations, but I am even not sure it would be enough, and if they replicate what is happening with fiat currencies exchanges, this could actually never happen.
At last, and even if it does not seem realistic for the moment, I think we will see crypto-currencies trading desks. Yet this will become possible only once the volumes have reached a way higher level and only once the crypto-currency derivatives market, allowing banks to hedge themselves, will have become effective.