Interview with Awanish Rajan, CEO of Bitfex.com
Bitfex — The First Complete Crypto Derivatives Exchange
Awanish let’s start with the most simple question — can you tell us about yourself and what you’re currently working on?
A big hi to all the readers of Altcoin Magazine! I am Awanish Rajan and I am the CEO of Bitfex. I completed my Bachelor’s in Engineering Physics from IIT-Madras in 2006. I started trading during my college days and joined a prop trading firm as a derivatives trader after graduation. I saw the 2008 financial meltdown firsthand and traded interest rate futures at the time, which saw tremendous volatility and thus offered exciting trading opportunities. The crypto market is also very volatile and the exchange we’re bringing is designed to let traders make the best of these markets. Currently, we are in the final development & testing phase and we’re gearing up for a launch soon. It’s an exciting time for us as a young startup.
You have 12 years of extensive trading experience in capital and crypto markets. Who or what motivated you to join the cryptocurrency space?
As I mentioned before, I have been trading right from my time as a college student, so the crypto market was a new avenue that I explored for some time. In the due course of time, as I dived in deeper into this space, I got convinced to make a complete shift into crypto trading. The digital asset market is a fascinating new development with tremendous potential. Once I started exploring the space more deeply, it became clear that crypto exchanges and the experience they offered could be greatly improved. This sentiment was echoed by many friends and acquaintances that had crossed over from the traditional space. So, the idea of Bitfex, a more robust crypto derivatives exchange with diverse trading products was but natural to take shape.
Did you stumble upon it, or were you convinced that this is the future?
In a way, it was a bit of both. I came across Bitcoin, took to trading it a bit initially. I also started exploring the landscape further. Soon it became quite clear that a decentralized digital economy is going to be the future. I had also been an active researcher of monetary systems and macroeconomic cycles, so Bitcoin struck me as an elegant solution to the problems of the legacy financial system. Bitcoin has now been up and running for more than ten years and a whole industry has formed around it. We see new developments happening every day and the crypto space has huge room for growth. As an industry, crypto is just getting started and the next five-ten years will be very exciting.
Bitfex, powered by IDAP, will be the first exchange to bring the complete derivatives product ecosystem to crypto asset market and all the necessary trading tools and techniques. Tell us more about the project. What is your vision and what is your main advantage?
The vision of Bitfex as an exchange is to provide a comprehensive market to traders for trading crypto derivative products. Compared to traditional exchanges, present trading platforms in the crypto space do not offer to traders, especially professional traders, an experience that takes into consideration their varying needs. Our exchange is institutional grade, our product line is diverse, and our platform interface is designed keeping in mind the volatile nature of the crypto market. We are providing Exchange Quoted Spreads, a product not available in crypto as of now, while traditionally such products are very popular with derivatives traders and see a high daily volume. For instance, 40% of volume in oil futures is from spreads. See, traders vary in their trading style and their risk appetites; spread trading will be very attractive to low-risk traders and thus lead to improved liquidity in the crypto futures market. Moreover, our desktop platform with ‘one-click’ ladder trading enables lightning-fast trade execution, letting traders make good on the opportunities provided by the volatile markets. Our exchange is built to be trader-friendly and the response from the trading community has been overwhelmingly positive, and this is what I feel is our strength.
How have others attempted to solve this problem before, and why did their solutions succeed or fail? How can you solve the problem? How are you different?
To be honest, derivatives trading is an untapped goldmine of opportunities in the crypto space. BitMex introduced perpetual contracts to crypto; today these are the most popular crypto instruments being traded. That said, we have barely scratched the surface of derivatives in crypto. Traditional derivatives markets are the biggest that exist, estimated to be valued at several quadrillions. You may be hearing that many exchanges, some upcoming, some existing are getting into crypto derivatives, but their offerings are similar and there’s nothing new in terms of products or the platform UX. The way we see it, we are the only ones who are approaching things from this angle, by bringing a legacy styled trading platform, robust institutional-grade exchange architecture and by expanding user choices when it comes to trading products. A vast community of traders, both looking to enter crypto as well as those already here, will engage in trading derivatives if the conditions are right for them. A futures market that is holistic in its offerings, accommodating the preferences of users, be it in terms of usage or risk, is what will help to grow this space. So for us, we’re not just capturing a market here, we’re effectively creating a new one.
What prevents others from copying you? Why are you unique?
The backend development that we have done to execute the salient features of our exchange is huge, both in terms of the time devoted as well as the work that went into it. Features like implied logic for futures market, where perpetual, futures and spread markets are interlinked, and our advanced desktop platform where you can trade with a single click, use semi-automated trading and set different workspaces, these were built after many months of intense hard work. These things are not easily replicable. Anyone trying to copy us will be stuck playing catch-up. As a startup we are continuously evolving and innovating, you can’t copy the mindset and passion of a team that has been working on a project for over a year. That said, we’d be happy to see more startups work in the crypto derivatives sector, even if they copy some of our ideas. This space, as I have mentioned repeatedly has an unbounded potential for growth right now; more players will only help in the overall growth.
So, Bitfex aims to tap the potential billion dollars crypto derivatives market by creating the much -needed crypto derivatives trading instruments and a legacy styled advanced and easy to use trading interface, right? What are your views on customer experience? What will be the customer experience of your business?
If you go through the project white paper, we’ve highlighted that customer experience is a problem when it comes to exchanges and that is something, we are committed to tackling. The vast experience of the team in traditional markets and on world-class exchanges has been instrumental in shaping the experience we are offering as a trading platform. Moreover, support for customer problems is going to be a high priority for us as a business and through a tiered system of handling requests, we are looking to provide support in a time-sensitive and case-sensitive manner.
What milestones has the company achieved and what are the future plans?
We released the exchange TestNet early this year. Users responded very well to it, we saw a lot of trading on the TestNet and received valuable feedback from the community. We also are now backed by Sparx Ventures, an early-stage VC firm that works closely with high-growth, promising tech startups. Development work as I mentioned earlier is in final phases, so taking the exchange live as soon as possible is what we are focused on right now.
Your IEO on ProBit Exchange will start in a few days. Tell us everything that potential investor needs to know about it?
Right, the IEO goes live on 26th August 2019 at 8:30 AM ( GMT+5:30). To participate you have to sign-up on ProBit and follow the guidelines given. As we are a trader-friendly exchange, we are offering Zero-Fee trading to IEO participants that will buy and hold 100,000 BFX (the Bitfex exchange native utility token). Bonus is available, 42% to those investing using PROB and 40% to those buying with USDT, BTC, ETH and XRP. BFX listing on ProBit, once the IEO concludes, is confirmed.
What advice do you have for people just starting out with a business or trying to make their fortunes?
Build systems or products that you will like using. That way you solve problems by thinking like your potential customers without consciously having to make the effort of guessing what will be liked or disliked by the potential user base. Another thing to keep in mind that as a new business, nothing is static and every new day comes with its own challenges. Perseverance is a quality that is vital if you are looking to start your own business. Through the highs and lows, perseverance is what helps you keep going and staying focused.