Building the“Coinbase of Asia:” A closer look into the team behind Hybrid Block
Having advised several exciting and innovative projects on their token sale process in the past year, I’ve intuitively grasped how important disciplined founders are in executing a vision and seeing it manifest through concrete deliverables. In this light, I recently accepted an offer to join the dedicated Hybrid Block team as an advisor.
Part of my goal as an advisor to Hybrid Block was to give the broader crypto community insight into the founders — Apolo Ohno and Rod Jao — who I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know better over the past several months.
I first met the founders at a meet-and-greet dinner our mutual friend coordinated in October 2017 during Block-Con in Los Angeles. Once our connection was established, we proceeded to have conversations over time around their project, goals, and eventual token sale. I found each of them a quick study — having leveraged a vast network of top crypto insiders and experts to understand all aspects of the ecosystem — and they were also objective and measured in listening to feedback and receiving criticism constructively whenever I offered it. In other words, these were coachable founders who possessed a high level of business acumen.
We also worked together closely in arranging a successful and well-attended event in Macau back in December, which I joined as a speaker and co-organizer. The event was designed to educate an audience from across Asia about the entire blockchain ecosystem (from the inner workings of blockchain technology, to smart contracts, to security, to regulation, and even ICOs). These kind of educational events — along with their full stack trading platform — are part of a comprehensive effort the team is undertaking to realize their goal of onboarding over 100 million users to their platform, hence the “Coinbase of Asia” tagline. Further, the events that Hybrid Block assemble in Asia are often attended by chief regulators, top media outlets, and wealthy investors and companies.
Back to the founders, I wanted to take a moment to ask them questions in a way that would reveal some of the insights that I personally have but may not be known to the broader public. As such, here is a brief Q&A I conducted with Apolo and Rod.
[Hen] — What are some of the activities you both have carried out in Asia to help advance Hybrid Block that may not be reflected in your past backgrounds? Specifically, what relationships and reach do you both have in the market you’re targeting that you believe will help your project?
[Apolo] — We both have been traveling to Asia for over 20 years and building unique relationships with heads of state, financial regulators, banking, and, of course, existing enterprise businesses that have strong penetration in those respective markets. I personally have been traveling to Asia since I was 14 years old, and cultivating relationships on an organic level since my very first trip to China, Japan, and South Korea. From infrastructure projects, to natural resource initiatives, we already have had deep understanding and conversations with individuals who are in charge of regulatory oversight, new financial technology, and policy makers who ultimately have a large say in how you conduct your business. We believe that our audience in Asia is warm and receptive to the discussions we’ve already been deep in, and will continue to be warm in the future.
[Rod] — Our focus has always been to be regulator friendly and education-rich. Working hand in hand with regulators to both state our case, cause, and effect is critical in how the future shapes up for crypto assets and the administrations who govern the specific jurisdictions we operate within. Every relationship that we have in Asia is unique, and carries a positive track record, which gives us the confidence that we will reach all of our goals and timelines for Hybrid Block.
[Hen] — Unlike many projects that launch an ICO, you will actually have a production-ready product just weeks after the close of your ICO. How long has your team been building the product? How was this funded and why is an ICO needed if the product is already near-complete?
[Rod] — Our internal goal was to have a fully complete and functional product before ever doing an ICO. This was primarily motivated by us having traditional finance backgrounds and businesses that would never get off the ground with just an idea on paper. We’ve been building our platforms since early 2017. Funding came from a combination of founder capital and early strategic investment from key individuals whom we have worked with on multiple occasions before. An ICO is needed particularly because we operate differently than a protocol layer technology that may not actually become reality in a few years. Our exchanges operate to facilitate trade, and we need traders on our platform using our products in order for that to thrive. Ongoing maintenance, upgrades, team acquisition are fundamental processes of this ecosystem. Additionally, in order to promote massive adoption and unparalleled customer service, it’s important for us to have the necessary resources and capital to achieve these goals.
[Apolo] — Another component is the allocation of funds for injection into the liquidity pools. We are actually providing liquidity to the exchanges themselves in order to create faster trade execution, high order depth/liquidity which directly results in a better user experience. Ex: 5 exchanges w/ 5m USD each on the clearing side = 25m USD. That can dissipate very quickly, but can be rotated and replenished as the volume increases automatically; it’s a critical piece to giving the market the velocity it needs.
[Hen] — Some of the initial feedback from the crypto community has been centered around a perceived lack of technical depth on the Hybrid team. Can you guys speak to this concern in terms of what technical resources you’ve acquired to build your exchange and trading platform? Anything you’d like to share that might excite the developer community?
[Apolo] — I’m glad you brought this up. I love the community and appreciate their need for validation from our existing team. I’ll give you some background: Most of our dev team has been primarily overseas in working environments that have been isolated from the traditional LinkedIn and online presence. They each have their own localized versions of these types of platforms in which to display their CV and resumes but they haven’t needed to validate who they are or their prior accomplishments because past employment has always spoken for itself. Up until recent interest from the community to validate which devs are actually working on the project, the online presence has never been a focal point for any of our guys.
Now saying that, we are making the necessary steps in order for the community to get to know our devs better (while not bringing them too far off from their core work) so that people can get comfortable with our team and their capability. We are blessed to have such a hardworking and passionate group behind us, and while they are not in the spotlight, they deserve to be recognized and celebrated (because they are bad asses and have made amazing leaps and bounds over the last 10 months with development).
Prior experience with high frequency trading, coding, algorithmic trading, fix api, robust infrastructure and trading knowledge akin to Wall Street technical resources are just a few of the skill sets that our team holds. We are making it a priority to create a video FAQ, AMAs with influencers, and formal introductions, as I give this response. Stay tuned! ☺
[Hen] — Apolo, many people are familiar with your past successes as a decorated Olympian in speed skating, but may be less familiar with your business accomplishments off the rink. Speak about some of those experiences and how they have prepared you for the challenge that you’re now tackling with Hybrid Block.
[Apolo] — I’ve been involved with and have invested into many different companies since 2001. I have experience in sectors such as manufacturing, telcom, real estate, nutraceutical, advertising, digital media, and health and wellness. In my business background, I’ve hit some amazing home runs, and also experienced a few losses as with any entrepreneur. The critical point to know about me is that I am always competitive, hungry to win, and can adapt to any environment. I honed these traits as an Olympic athlete in a sport that is extremely variable — short track speed skaters must exploit the tiniest detail in order to squeeze out an edge that will enable them to win. Over a decade of training can go into an event that lasts less than 40 seconds. One thousandth of a second too early or too late, and you’ve lost the opportunity to make the podium. Process, adaptation, flexibility, and a deep understanding of my own personal strengths, but also being self-aware of my limitations, gives me the confidence I believe will enable me to win with Hybrid Block. I share some of these traits with some of the most esteemed experts in the blockchain space who have served as phenomenal mentors to me. We ascribe to a philosophy of “deep immersion” so that we can quickly assess our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to guide us as we move in not just a new venture, but a nascent industry. I welcome the challenge, and will continue to seek alliances with all individuals, companies, and teams who seek a better future together. If I don’t have the answer, I will find and vet the best experts available, and get the answer.
[Hen] — Rod, you have an extensive background as a businessman in the Asia region, and deep relationships with prominent investors and government officials across Asia. Can you describe how that will be important in Hybrid Block’s mission to be a world-class exchange unrivaled in Asia?
[Rod] — I have always had the belief that relationships are the key to long term success. My father always taught me since I was very young the popular expression, “it’s not what you know but who you know that matters.”
Building something on the scale of Hybrid Block requires government cooperation. Many of the most prominent families and tycoons in Asia that I’ve had the opportunity to do business with over the past two decades have been very influential not only in business but in politics. These relationships and the principles I’ve learned will continue being important in shaping out the future of blockchain adoption in these societies.
Blockchain technology will play an integral role in modern society. We all know by now that governments are paying close attention and will be imposing regulation to provide a framework that will enable this technology to truly scale. Our experience in having relationships with key government officials are crucial for the long term success of Hybrid Block. We feel this will be a tremendous asset given that these kind of relationships in countries in Asia can be quite complex and take years to develop — a disadvantage for many new projects without these kind of connections.
Becoming a marketplace and regional hub for the space is a huge responsibility. Beyond the technical innovation that is key to delivering a professional product, we also expend a lot of time working with regulators in Asia to ensure we’re ready to embrace a post-wild west market in a fully compliant manner. We feel a very special sense of responsibility in this respect because our solution will also involve educating the broader public about a very new technology, which is naturally of key interest to governments.
Ultimately, we embrace innovation and competition. We feel very blessed to be in the right place at the right time. We respect the exchanges that have emerged and have studied their successes and failures in order to learn how Hybrid Block can improve upon them.
To find out more about Hybrid Block, visit hybridblock.io.
Hybrid Block is currently raising for its presale. E-mail Hen@alphachain.com for more details.
ICO Start Date: March 15th
Whitelist Registration is live: https://register.hybridblock.io/Whitepaper: https://s3.amazonaws.com/hybridblock--
YouTube Interview with OhHeyMatty: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9XliAEsgiw&t
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