A Fintech Asia feature with a twist…
COSS.io (that’s Crypto-One-Stop-Solution) is working to provide “a stable ground for the flourishing of the cryptocurrency industry supported by the massive user adoption of the crypto among ordinary people. They want to bring together people – customers, merchants, service providers, startups and businesses with different needs and resources – so that they can exchange, interact and benefit mutually.”
This time, not one person but four COSS team members share their views with us. Each one with their special skillset, knowledge and perspective…
Here’s a quick introduction of our interviewees:
Rune Evensen: I am the CEO, co-founder and the visionary officer at COSS. My background in marketing, sales, networking, business consultancy and coaching, and I stepped into the Fintech industry as a non-techie guy who recognized the possibilities of the cryptocurrency and the blockchain technology, but very soon got tired of all the clumsy processes the cryptocurrency enthusiasts go through to complete a simple transaction. So I started thinking of a one-stop solution.
Andrei Popescu: I am the experience officer & co-founder, and my contribution to COSS ranges widely from customer support and team management to ensuring the optimal operation of the platform, to bridging the management board with the developers team. I have entrepreneurial background and experience in what is now called the crisis-management plus I like keeping an eye on the innovations such as the blockchain and staying up-to-date with the industry trends.
Dan Cearnau: I am blockchain developer, founder of a dev company in Romania and co-founder of COSS. My team works out the technical solutions that we implement into the COSS system, e.g. smart contracts, API, plugins, etc.
Christopher Bridges: My main focus is the compliance of the COSS policies with the applicable state, federal and local laws and regulations. For almost three decades I worked as a litigation lawyer, a notary public and a commissioner of oaths. My major fields of practice are both the Civil and the Criminal Litigation. I also volunteer as probation officer, serve in various sub-committees in the Law Society of Singapore, lecture at Murdoch University.
How did you come about setting your focus on this particular category? Please tell us a little more about the company’s beginnings as well.
Rune: For me personally it started back in 2013 when I was working on creating a one-stop solution for social media, and when others asked me if we also were to accept cryptocurrency I started to look into that specific industry. I then noticed that there was a lot of hurdles for a newbie to get involved with a lot of the information and tools spread on tens of different sites. Then the idea quickly evolved to look into a one-stop solution for the cryptocurrency and blockchain industry, the idea was there on many post-it notes and it kept growing, but it wasn’t until the early 2016 when I attended a MIT course on Fintech, the future of commerce, that the idea actually got validated. I submitted an elevator pitch and a write-up as one of the assignments on the course, and MIT graded me 100 out of 100 for the business idea. That was sort of the “kick in the butt” I needed for taking the idea to the next level, forming a team, starting to design the white papers, etc. Fast forward one year and we launched the beta version of COSS (Crypto One Stop Solution) on April 1st 2017.
Andrei: I started working with Rune, back in 2014, when he was developing a One-Stop Solution for Social Media. A very interesting project from which, even now, I remember all the details, as that was the first time we actually considered using cryptocurrency as an alternative form of payment.
Dan, I met him last year during an IT Festival that was hosted in Singapore, where he was presenting a new project developed by his company. We talked for a few minutes, a very interesting discussion, during which the topic of the blockchain and cryptocurrency was raised and Dan expressed his passion for this new innovative tech. We had to catch up later on.
Chris was always there, besides being our corporate lawyer and legal advisor, he was always there to bring us down when our expansionist and visionary minds started flying and aiming for the moon.
All the pieces were in place and it didn’t take much till things started to take shape from ideas… to whitepapers… to a Beta Launch of COSS that was presented to the public on the 1st of April.
Christopher: I came to know Rune and the other members of Coss.io through Andrei whom I have known for many years. After the initial meetings and discussions, during which Rune explained the great idea I agreed to join them. However, as I am a practicing lawyer, my main focus/assistance is in compliance.
Dan: COSS started as a necessity caused by the lack of information / guidance when a user enters the cryptocurrency world. As you try to understand Bitcoin and the other cryptocurrencies, you get more confused. Most tutorials and instructions are written for the tech-savvy individuals and offer almost no guidance to the average users. Also, the most cryptocurrency services offer bad or no support, frustrating the user even more.
What transformations have you undergone as a company since starting up?
Rune: From being a mere consultancy company for startups that also looked into developing various platforms, to pivoting into this industry has been a steep learning curve, so yes there has been a lot of changes over the few years in operation. Many courses attended, new skillsets acquired, new staff in, some staff out etc. But I think and feel that we have established a strong team and that we are about to show that we have found our place in the market with our vision and mission.
Andrei: It was, is and will be a very interesting ride. This industry and everything related to it, is moving and transforming with the speed that was rarely seen till now in any industry. Only in this line of industry you can say that figures or business models from 2 weeks ago are outdated… and this is not a joke.
We are always changing and adapting, but I am very glad to say that we have the perfect team in place with a great entrepreneurial spirit and a very good background in business, legal, finance and tech and a visionary mindset to make it happen.
Major transformations for the time being are mostly related to the technology and the way businesses evolve around it, but we will see very soon some major regulatory decisions that are somehow needed. These will be ones that start-ups and fintech/blockchain companies will have to comply with.
Christopher: Over a 1-year period, my exposure to the business enterprises of the company has increased and it has been a steep learning curve for me. The journey has opened my eyes to the developing fintech industry and also increased my knowledge of the legal and the compliance considerations of this fast-developing industry.
Thoughts on the present current Asian Fintech landscape? How is it faring so far compared to United Kingdom, Denmark, the Middle East etc. according to you?
Rune: In my mind some parts of Asia are way ahead of the other markets. Innovation is seen as part of the community here and very much embraced by the government. Singapore itself aims to be a tech hub and a superb location for start-ups to evolve. China is also a huge front-runner in the blockchain industry. However, we do see the other markets adopting the same mindset and are becoming more and more pro the entire industry.
Andrei: Blockchain Tech/FinTech companies are starting to get a lot of traction in Europe nowadays; London is already a well-established FinTech Hub, but I have to say that Asia is leading in terms of disruptive approaches and innovative technologies.
In Asia, you will find a lot of cities like Singapore, Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Tokyo where everyone is embracing the new tech, and the communities are working hand-in-hand with the governments to find the perfect balance on all business levels.
I see a lot of potential in countries like Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Germany where there is a very good and solid tech infrastructure in place, that can boost any start-up.
There are exceptional IT companies and hackers in the Eastern Europe that have huge potential, so there are definitely a lot of great things that will come out of Europe.
Dan: There are large regions in Asia with a huge number of unbanked population. Blockchain and cryptocurrencies offer a new perspective for both individuals and businesses.
Christopher: Based on my exposure, I would say that the Fintech landscape in Singapore is developing at a phenomenal pace, and it has very strong support from the Government.
Which are the sectors in Asian Fintech where you think there are untapped opportunities? There are various geographies with unique challenges and opportunities. How does it fit in with your product and growth plans for the immediate future?
Rune: Whether we are talking about banking the unbanked, or simply “un-banking” everyone it isn’t really that big of importance in my mind. Our grand mission is more to be a facilitator for the entire industry so-to-speak, like the AirBnB of the cryptocurrency and the blockchain industry. We do develop some of the features ourselves, but in order for the platform to really be able to call itself a One Stop Solution, we aim to implement many services from the 3rd party clients. We have already signed many agreements with companies that will implement and offer their services through COSS in the very close future.
Andrei: I often say that where cryptocurrencies and the other open blockchain technologies are today is approximately where the internet was in 1992, in terms of technology, in terms of infrastructure deployments, in terms of adoption patterns. This technology is definitely where the internet was in 1992, but the hype of crypto and the blockchain technologies is about the same level the hype of the internet was in 1998.
COSS stands for Crypto-One-Stop-Solution, so what we are aiming to provide is a platform that helps, educates and protects the normal user from all the hurdles that he will find out when enrolling on the cryptocurrency path.
We have enrolled on the big journey of the mass adoption of cryptocurrency.
What we need now is Visionary Entrepreneurs and Hackers, because these people have the mindset optimized for discovery, for figuring out what’s possible. Visionary Entrepreneurs and Hackers look at the other people’s problems and see them as opportunities.
Please tell us a little about your funding journey – the requirements & objectives in mind when you decided to raise a round/s; the fit you found or were looking for with your investors; what would you be looking for in the future as the business grows?
Rune: Up and till now we have been 100% self-funded, but in order to escalate the development of the platform we decided to do what we named the Token Swap that started on August 8th. This was an exchange of tokens during which the contributors received COSS tokens in exchange for Ethereum tokens. The COSS tokens qualify the holders to participate in our Fair Share program, which through a designed system will distribute transaction fees collected on the platform. You can read more about it on www.ico.coss.io
Andrei: This is one of my favorite subjects and we already have a #DOanICO in place. Till now we have been 100% self-funded, but in order to optimize our operations and escalate the IT development on all the features we want to have in place, we decided to do a Token Swap.
COSS Token Swap started on the 8th of August and all the info you can be found on www.coss.io/ico, as the COSS tokens will qualify the holders to participate in our Fair Share program which through a designed system will distribute transaction fees collected on the platform.
COSS is a living project, so there are no limitations to the things that can be implemented on COSS.
What advice would you give to other Fintech entrepreneurs?
Rune: No idea is too small and no dream is too big. Get yourself out there and get your idea validated by others. You might be sitting on a multi-million dollar idea, so don’t keep it to yourself.
Andrei: This new market and the technology itself is in the infant stage. I encourage everyone with a risk appetite to take this learning curve as there are huge opportunities ahead.
We never know the outcome of our efforts unless we actually do it; Always believe that you can succeed, and you’ll find ways through different obstacles (there will be so many…), if you don’t, you’ll just find excuses.
The world is full of great ideas, but success only comes through action.
Christopher: From my viewpoint, to ensure compliance with the applicable laws in Singapore (or in the country your business is based) especially with the Securities and the Futures Act.
Dan: I think it’s very important to build a product first and then go for financing (angel investors, VC, ICO, etc.). Just an idea or enthusiast is not enough for a project to be successful. I think entrepreneurs must go over the opportunistic hype and create a valuable product before seeking financing in order to grow their business.