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FinTech Chat (FTC) — Episode 15 — Joe Reiben (CEO) & Zach Daniels (CTO), Mandala Exchange

FinTech Chat (FTC) is a series of educational & informative interviews with world professionals in the FinTech / Crypto / Blockchain communities. We aim to provide content that is digestible in multiple mediums such as video, audio (podcast), and written (blog) form!

Joe Reiben and Zach Daniels are the CEO and CTO of Mandala Exchange. Prior to founding Mandala, Joe was a business attorney and has been trading cryptocurrency since 2015, when he first discovered it. Zach, on the other hand, has been in the crypto scene since 2009, and has been involved on the tech side of blockchain for over a decade.

Website: https://www.mandala.exchange/

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Note: This transcript was automatically generated by artificial intelligence (AI) and therefore typos and grammatical errors may be present.

00:00
Intro: Interviews on crypto blockchain with your host, Blockchain Wayne on FTC

BLOCKCHAIN WAYNE: Hey everyone, welcome and thanks for watching. Today we’re joined by two great guests. Today we’ve got Joe Reiben, CEO of Mandala and Zach Daniels is the CTO of Mandala, did I get that correct, guys? (ZACH DANIELS: Absolutely) Awesome awesome, thanks for taking the time to talk today. I know you guys have had a hell of a journey. I’ve been keeping up with it behind the scenes, so we’ll definitely get to talk about that. But I guess let’s start with you, Zach. Tell me a little bit about yourself, man. What… what’s your background and what… how… how’d you get involved in the cryptocurrency space?

ZACH DANIELS: Well sure it’s a long sort of affair but the short version is… you know, I’m… I’m a tech guy. I always have been… and back in like 2009, 2010, I got interested in bitcoin mainly just because I thought the idea of digital cash was both inevitable and pretty cool. So that’s kind of how it started and then I figured out pretty quickly and… you know, more and more, once I got kind of invested and involved in the community, that it was a lot more than that… than that. So the… the tech stuff is what started my journey. And then it was kind of like the financial freedom… you know, global financial inclusion and still the tech, too. Honestly, that kind of kept me involved in it. So I’ve worked on multiple projects all over the world… you know, lived lots of different places working on crypto, and at this point I don’t think I’ll ever leave so…

01:37
BLOCKCHAIN WAYNE: Awesome awesome! Joe, how about you, man? What… what got you into this space?

JOE REIBEN: Sure, in a word, trading, interest in trading. I came at it from more of a legal… legal point of view and a business point of view obviously with my background as an attorney and you know, a business attorney at that. And I got in about 2015 or so… I really jumped into the space head first, really saw the the the volatility which was of… of you know, bitcoin at the time and really just trading bitcoin and ethereum 2015 2016 before branching out into other crypto and really learned to love the… you know, to love the I guess late nights, if you want to call it early mornings of trading, because the market never shuts down for years on end, and then really parlayed that into when I started my own firm in late 2015… you know, representing crypto blockchain companies around the world, helping with regulatory and compliance issues business and tax structuring and really just set up and sitting on their boards as advisors. You know, at first, the first iteration of our project, Mandala, I was half of the general counsel with my father and… and my firm in general as well as another partner who’s no longer there, but then you know, parlayed that into the CEO position today obviously understanding the the crypto industry from the inside out with from a regulatory and compliance aspect and making sure we… you know, we stay out of trouble. We do everything above board as a centralized exchange.

BLOCKCHAIN WAYNE: Nice so, it’s been a long road with Mandala right? So which one of you guys wants to talk about that? Because I mean I’m excited to hear this. We see so many projects. I’ve seen so many projects with good intentions start out sputter out and fail and just kind of fade away. And you guys didn’t do that. You faced some hurdles right? So tell us a little bit about that journey?

ZACH DANIELS: Yeah yeah sure. So yeah, we… so we’ve been working on this since oh man like basically late 2017 or early 2018. And yeah we… you know, we face some hurdles, you said it perfectly. So there were… there were a number of technical hurdles. You know, we had different development partners and things on the original version of the exchange that didn’t work out too well. We learned some good lessons there and then… you know, we had some some other missteps with management and stuff like that… you know, that forced us to make some… you know, some really hard and drastic decisions to secure the future of the company, proud to say that we did that… did it properly… you know, the… it’s a brand new company. The entire board has been restructured… you know, and we have a… luckily, too, we… you know, we have a great community. They kind of helped shepherd us through this time… you know, they stuck with us, they trusted that we were going to do what we said we would. And ultimately they helped us reach this goal. And now we actually have… you know, several community members who are investors and actually play an active role in the management of the company. So you know, we really took all of their advice and all their help to heart. And you know, for Joe and I, this is kind of like a labor of love. We’re both probably to the longest standing members of the project still, so you know, we’re… we’re not going anywhere. We’ve proven that in the last couple of years and now… you know, we have a… we have a great deal great partnership with Binance Cloud which allows us to offer… you know, a very solid product. I’m proud to say that… you know, we’ve been open for trading just over a month or so and things are going really well so…

JOE REIBEN: And… and man, just… just to speak to that a little more. The bumps and bruises and… you know, it’s basically like a snowball, down and down a… down a downwards hill, just picked up steam that… you know, where we had to stop it somehow and really turn the company around like Zach said. And we had to reorganize our whole board. We had to reorganize our structure. We had to go cut… you know, influential partners and important partners, big name partners out to reach this point with finance where we could actually afford to both… you know, time wise, monetarily and… you know, for our future move forward with them. So we did a lot of hard work and like really soul-searching evaluation of… you know, the product we were putting out, how we could make the community whole and how we could really… you know, bring the superior product to market. And it took from… you know, from the first attempt at our launch of exchange really two years from… you know, start to end to bring this product to fruition and have something we are really extremely proud of and still adding features to. And you know, definitely in 2021, we’ll be bringing more online.

6:03
BLOCKCHAIN WAYNE: Nice, so I’m excited to see some of the features that are coming as I told you Joe, before we started this interview, I’ve had a chance to to dabble around on the platform, do some trading, what… what do you think when we talk to people about Mandala? Right there’s a…. there’s several exchanges out there, different options depending on where people live geographically, but what… what does Mandala offer now that may be different from another exchange’s experience? And then we’ll talk more about what you can disclose about the future as well.

JOE REIBEN: Sure so obviously we can’t disclose everything. We are… we do have a lot in production for 2021 and a lot of… a lot of things we are going to bring to market that our community and outsiders will love. But what I can tell you is that even now with some of the exotic order types we’ve brought online, even now with some of the… you know the projects we’re working on behind the scene, we want to bring a very comprehensive and full… you know, full exchange to our user bodies, both retail and institutional, so that the smallest trader that wants to trade 100 MDX a day or… you know, our institutions that may want to trade millions at a time will feel comfortable with order books with liquidity, with… you know, just the trade engine as… as a whole. So we’ve really worked and partnered with Binance Cloud, which is one of the benefits bringing them on we got their… you know, their order book depth and their liquidity there for a lot of the trading pairs that we share with order books and with volume. So that’s a really big… you know, leg up for us. Outside of that, there are other community driven and community centric I should really say features that we plan to bring online for 2021 such as… you know, we’re working on bringing trading strategies on there, the community can buy into and follow… you know, platforms for the community to discuss outside of the discord and telegram that we already have really just… just you know. And like Zach said before, we do want to center it around our community because that’s where the labor of love comes in, that’s who we cared about, that’s who we were doing this for. It wasn’t just to get rich quick and… and you know, sit back and kick back by any means type project because A. We’re not rich yet and B. We’ve been working our butts off for two years… you know, to make sure this… this is right. And we can… you know, we’re resolved to keep going.

08:07
BLOCKCHAIN WAYNE: All right, so it sounds like there’s gonna be a lot of maybe a social aspect to the platform, is what you’re saying?

ZACH DANIELS: Yeah absolutely. Yeah so, we… we plan to do so. The thing that… you know, when we started Mandala, we kind of thought about…. you know, we want to… you know, bring a platform that like the most basic trader can trade on but that’s not really inclusive either. Because there are a lot of… you know, high value traders out there that want to trade on a platform that has a lot of basic users trading on it as well right, so Binance cloud was kind of a perfect choice for us because it gave us a really good core foundation for things to work. So what we have now is like what… you know, one of the largest order book depths in the world. Liquidity and volume is obviously a big deal to anybody who’s trading. You want to be able to enter and exit trades at will and not affect the market adversely. So we’ve got that… you know, we have a very user-friendly interface for the most basic… you know, the most basic user could get in there and figure things out. And we also have…. you know, industry-leading features and like an API. And we actually this week are completing a couple of integrations with some of the larger trading bots that are available on the market today. So you know, we’re going to have a really robust offering for… for you no matter… you know, whether you’re like a brand new trader or you are… you know, running 50 bots out of an AWS server or something like that. You know, we want you to be able to trade confidently. And we feel like the community aspect that we’re going to build in is a big deal because nobody wants to trade on an island. Well some of us, do some more supply drinking on the island, so you know, yeah we… we have a lot planned for the future a lot. We can’t discuss but we’re definitely going to make sure that… you know, users are the primary focus. We want to get customers and we want to keep them so…

09:51
BLOCKCHAIN WAYNE: Nice nice, so looking forward to seeing some of that social aspect and… you know, I agree… you know, the island comment. I mean yeah, I think once you get it figured out, you don’t mind being on the island. But there’s so many people that need to phone a friend I think sometimes when it comes to…

ZACH DANIELS: Yeah, I mean a lot of people who… you know, land on the island initially ground before they get a chance to like clan up. So you know, we want to provide that. That’s true and I think that’s where some of our… our understanding of the market being all of us being in at least five or six years… you know, and… and seeing the dips, seeing the swells, seeing those… you know, those roller coaster cycles that helps us develop a better product for the average person that may be scared to do more than dip their toe in the water… you know, even during a bull run such as this where all the news is pretty positive. It can really there’s so much information and it’s so dense and such a new market that people… you know, are trying to grasp to understand it the way we were looking at it in 2014, 15, 16. So having those… you know, having those years of experience behind us for our whole team is a really important thing that… you know, that we take pride in.

BLOCKCHAIN WAYNE: Nice nice, so let’s talk some more… about the… the launch of the exchange guys. I’d like to… you know, hear more about that so Zach, Joe, tells me… you’re the tech guy… you know, I make all this so what do people not understand like… what… what are some things that that go into just launching an exchange? I know some people think it’s as simple as getting some legal… legal paperwork together and opening some order books but there’s a lot more to it, right?

ZACH DANIELS: Sure yeah, this is like one of the only cases in the world where the legal work is the easy part if you can believe it or not, right? So yeah I mean there’s a ton of stuff that goes into it not just and… you know, so the technical is obviously a really really important part. Because if the exchange doesn’t work, nobody’s trade so… you know, there’s that part to consider which I’ll… I’ll dissect a little bit here. But the more important part is is kind of coordinating everything around that, right? So you know, building this with Binance Cloud was not an overnight process as we expected that it wouldn’t be. And I believe now we’re on probably the third iteration of this exchange if you count. You know, the previous two from… you know, 2018 going forward. So we’ve done this a few times, learned a lot of lessons… you know, along the way… you know, I’ve been delivering software like forever. So for me, none of this is… is is abnormal at all. But I can tell you right now that… you know, it’s when you’re… when you’re taking care of people’s money which is essentially what we’re doing, right, you have to build things by design to be like secure reliable fault tolerant. You can’t allow anything to break because essentially you’re like… you know, just throwing somebody’s money in the fire. And if you’re any kind of ethical that means you’re throwing your own money in the fire, because you’re not going to make a mistake and not reimburse someone for that mistake, right? So everything we do, we do with security at the top of mind. If something is wildly inconvenient but it’s the most secure route, that’s the route we take. So you know, there was a… a solid… you know, four six months of planning that went into this even though Binance Cloud had a really robust offering and everything we had to make sure from our side that that everything was done properly. And you know, they gave us some pointers and we in turn gave them some as well… you know, because Binance Cloud is a new product as well so… you know, we were able to point some things out that they maybe hadn’t thought about. So a ton of work went into it really and… and by a not very small team. You know, we have probably 15 people or so working on this thing day in and day out with… you know, no paychecks… you know, just doing it because we want to provide a solid product. So it’s been… it’s been interesting and time-consuming and ultimately though we did it. And we’re proud and now we just have to continue to improve.

13:41
BLOCKCHAIN WAYNE: Yeah I can imagine man. I think about the security nightmare it must be to… to build that secure system. And I mean you nailed it perfectly, right, so the… the compromise between security and convenience, we’ve all seen the hacks over the years that have happened with exchanges. How do you guys feel like… you guys feel you’re well protected against some of those pitfalls?

ZACH DANIELS: We… we do very well so… you know, I have a… I have a cyber security background in my former life so very… and and infrastructure security as well, so very… I’m very well positioned to kind of understand all those… all those things. Also you know, being in the industry as long as myself and a lot of the team members have, we’ve had the chance to witness all of these hacks, right, so even at an armchair level, we have some understanding of like how people can do these things, and what it takes. So our personal security measures around our staff and that kind of thing are A. top secret and B. you know, very robust. You know, also we have the added benefit of being on Binance Cloud which means that our funds are safe. And for people that don’t know what that means, that means that if… you know, we actually… we actually share wallet architecture… you know, with Binance, so if… you know, if there was a hack on Binance or on us, the funds would be covered by their insurance fund. People would get reimbursed so that’s one of the more important things… you know, that we were looking out for when we signed up with Binance was some level of guarantee and not just what’s on paper. Anybody can go start an insurance company and say I insure my own money, right. Binance has been hacked and actually paid people back, right. So it would be weird to assume that they wouldn’t do that twice. So we’ve got… we’ve got the added benefit of all of their security plus what we’ve seen and insurance to boot so… (BLOCKCHAIN WAYNE: Cool)

JOE REIBEN: And wait, just to add to that a little bit. We’re also the first privately owned exchange built on Binance Cloud. And you know, something we take a lot of pride in because I’m sure they… they shifted through a bunch of applications and chose us in part which we’ve talked with their developers about because we had our team together, we had experts in place for each part of this, we had our documentation in order, we had our… you know, just our… just basically everything ready to go for them. So we could make it as easy as possible when they started the process and like Zach said. There was a bit of a planning period probably about half a year where we were just making sure going running down that checklist once… you know, over and over and over again, saying, hey did we miss anything that we have to provide them in terms of tech, in terms of legal, in terms of staffing, in terms of operations. And you know, we were very… you know, proud to be selected by them and very happy that they picked us out of everybody. They could have picked to develop the first privately owned exchange.

16:26
BLOCKCHAIN WAYNE: Nice I mean it sounds like a great partnership. Also you know, like Zach was talking about the… you know, having the… the funds protected that’s what most people are concerned about, we’ve seen… you know, we’ve seen hacks where certain exchanges like Binance and others have been able to bounce back reimburse everybody. And there’s been others where the exchange has just been insolvent after. So it’s important people need to realize that having that backing is… is very important especially if you’re trading on that exchange.

JOE REIBEN: Definitely so, just one more thing exactly Zach’s right about… you know, the tech being so important in this place, but just… just a touch on the legal, we did have to also go jurisdictionally to about three different countries within the two years because of changing blockchain regulation and laws. I mean we settled in Malta. We tried to settle in Estonia and we finally settled on Seychelles which is where our exchange is housed because of the evolving laws and because of the basically regulatory bodies in those jurisdictions making it either unbearable to work or so suppressive in the regions. We wanted to… you know, basically have our… in our user base from so we had to really shop that around. And each time we started over it was all… it was cost and time intensive and a lot of labor and a lot… you know, a lot went into those. So we really respect our partners over in the Seychelles or the firm that helped put us in place. And we appreciate that so just another way…

BLOCKCHAIN WAYNE: Yeah from outside looking at it, it seems like that would be like trying to score and the goal post constantly being moved right?

JOE REIBEN: Yeah I mean, yeah, we all know regulation changes every week. Just look at the SEC. (BLOCKCHAIN WAYNE: Yes yeah more to come on that one, right?)

ZACH DANIELS: Every day it’s every 24 hours or so, something changes stuff. (JOE REIBEN: keeps us on our toes)

BLOCKCHAIN WAYNE: Yeah I’ll just… I mean, just last week what there was… there was an article about Yellen talking… you know, talking about bitcoin being used mainly by criminals and… but then talking about how cryptocurrency can streamline the financial systems that’s coming from the same person.

ZACH DANIELS: Yeah I mean you have to appreciate her point of view. She’s thinking bitcoins for criminals but you know like a state-backed crypto would be any better, I don’t know. Throw that out there seems kind of weird…

18:43
BLOCKCHAIN WAYNE: Yeah cool so Mandala… so Mandala’s launch is ready to go. People can start trading on it when… you know, at any point now. What… where can people find and connect with… with the platform?

ZACH DANIELS: Yeah absolutely, so the easiest place to go to is just Mandala.exchange. If you go there, there’s links to all of our socials. So we’ve got… you know, Telegram group. We’re mainly in discord fits our purposes a little bit better. So if you want to come and join the community talk to people, check out the field in the chat room. Our discord link is on our Mandala.exchange website. And yeah that’s pretty much where we all talk to each other. You’ll see myself, Joe, the other officers of the company and plenty of other staff members in there as well as an extremely vibrant and close-knit community that’s been around, a lot of them since… you know, the beginning of the project in 2018. So I would definitely recommend checking that out if you’re at all interested. I’m sure they’ll… they’ll shill you really hard and you’ll join the family.

JOE REIBEN: And Zach makes a great point like we were talking about our community before. That’s why we did this. That’s why we revived this project was to make our community whole was to… you know, just make… you know, bring people into the fold that we thought were good community members that could help also as staff. So you know, on Discord you will… I know a lot of projects you’re not going to catch the COO, the CTO, the CEO and the other c-level members just chatting on a day-to-day basis and taking the temperature of the community. But we’re in there every day… you know, not only working with each other, but working with our community to… you know, to see what they want, to get a feel for what’s going on with their exchange, to really keep that hands-on vibe going with Mandala.

BLOCKCHAIN WAYNE: Nice so one other thing before we go, I noticed… so there’s some benefits of trading on the exchange as far as holding the MDX tokens, can you guys touch on that briefly?

ZACH DANIELS: Yeah absolutely, be happy to, so yeah MDX is our native token and basically… you know, we have different tiers that you can lock up MDX, so if you buy MDX and then you lock it into your wallet on the exchange, basically you’ll get a fee discount based on how much you lock up. We’ve got five different tiers ranging from… you know, twenty thousand gets you I believe a point one percent discount… and or locking up 320 000 MDX gets you a point zero five percent discount. So it kind of… you know, which whichever whatever you’re comfortable with, there’s a discount tier for you. And right now, of course… you know, we’re new so that’s probably going to be a pretty cost-effective way to get discounts as opposed to going to somewhere like Binance where it’s a lot more expensive.

21:18
BLOCKCHAIN WAYNE: Yeah, absolutely, so is there a certain lock up period or can it be unlocked at any time?

JOE REIBEN: Yeah there’s a… there’s a 30-day lock-up period that it’s a rolling 30-day. So you can unlock after 30 days but to get that discount for the month, you have to keep it locked for that 30-day period or else… you know, obviously it reverts back to just regular trading.

BLOCKCHAIN WAYNE: Yeah, it makes sense. Awesome awesome! I’m sure anybody that’s listening to us that does any trading know how important those fees can be. You know, I remember my first year of heavily active trading and… and then looking back at what I spent on fees, it was… it was a pretty eye opening. It made me switch some exchanges as well.

ZACH DANIELS: Yeah absolutely, if… if you’re not paying attention and you do a decent amount of trading, it adds up real quick so…

BLOCKCHAIN WAYNE: Yeah all right guys, well look, hey I appreciate you taking the time today. Everybody make sure to go and check out Mandala exchange at Mandala.exchange that the link is provided below as well. So make sure you check that out. Any… any final words guys, before we go? Start with you, Zach.

ZACH DANIELS: No, not really, thanks… thanks for your time, Wayne. Thanks everybody for watching and come and check us out!

BLOCKCHAIN WAYNE: Awesome! Joe, anything else after that?

JOE REIBEN: Yeah, I mean just this… whatever what Zach just said is really the truth. Just please come… you know, check out our exchange. Please use it, see how user-friendly it is and one more thank you to our community for really getting us here, helping us not not only… you know, with their time and their… and their finances to really help back the project when we had to basically rise it from the ashes, but… you know, to drive it forward to where we are. So we’re, like Zach said, we’re really proud of where we are today. And we look forward to bringing you this awesome product and all the new features in 2021 we plan to roll out.

BLOCKCHAIN WAYNE: Cool, awesome guys! Again, thanks for the time, everybody. Thanks for watching and listening in. And we will see you all on the next episode. Take care everyone!

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About Blockchain Wayne (Host)

Wayne has been managing, teaching, and coaching high performing teams for over 20 years. He has a passion for helping and teaching people and a passion for cryptocurrency and blockchain projects. He has created various coaching programs and partnerships with select education platforms and cryptocurrency program tools.

You can learn more on his website: https://www.blockchainwayne.com/

About Stably

Stably is a fast growing FinTech company from Seattle founded in 2018 by a team of former bankers and Amazon software engineers. The team has raised close to $3M in funding to date from angel investors as well as leading venture capital firms like 500 Startups, BEENEXT and Pay It Forward. Stably is also the blockchain developer for a wide range of cryptographic tokens and stablecoins backed by real assets, such as USD, EUR, CAD, precious metals and real estate. Our mission is to make financial transactions faster, cheaper and more transparent through a borderless digital money platform powered by open-banking and blockchain technologies.

For more information, please visit: www.stably.io

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