Interview with CEO Ed Moncada from Blockfolio on The Capital
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Dear Edward, thanks for taking the time to join me in this interview to educate our community on Blockfolio.
Can you briefly introduce yourself and tell us how you got into cryptocurrencies? What sparked your interest?
My name is Ed Moncada. I’m the co-founder & CEO of Blockfolio. I am also one of the founding board members of the DASH Foundation. Animal lover, husband to an incredible wife, and pretty much a full-time insomniac.
I’m fortunate to have entered the space very early on, so you can also say I’m a long time crypto lover. I became aware of Bitcoin in late 2012 and bought my first one in March of 2013. I actually bought 1 BTC to play poker on an online bitcoin poker site (which was my professional career in a prior life). After 3 months of poker, I had run my account up to 150 BTC. I cashed out 100 of them (worth around $10k in total at the time…sigh) and it took 48 hours for the fiat to hit my Chase account. Given the significant efforts that the US government had made to restrict money moving in and out of online gambling sites (which I was very familiar with due to my prior poker career) I immediately knew I stumbled upon something special because this nascent technology circumvented that. So I basically spent the next 3 months in a closet reading everything I could find about the tech due to this one experience. Probably the most valuable 3 month period of my entire life.
That’s amazing, Ed. Now can you give us an introduction to Blockfolio and its history?
Sure, by late 2013 I was already investing in plenty of cryptocurrencies besides Bitcoin. By early 2014 I was scouring Bitcointalk forums looking for other innovations. It seemed like every time I found an interesting coin worth investing in I kept running into this same online forum member. One day I asked this forum member if he wanted to speak over the phone to collaborate on research at which point I found out he lived 2 miles from me. Small world. This member was Charlie Mason, who would eventually become my Blockfolio co-founder and it’s original CEO.
Around this time I had also been making investments with a friend Richard (based out of London). Richard is a prolific altcoin investor who goes by the name of Otoh on Bitcointalk. He’s considered one of the biggest crypto whales around, even still today. Richard showed me an app called Pocket Crypto which was basically the home screen of Blockfolio without anything else. He told me some kid out of Kentucky that was still in college had built it, and any time he would ask for new features they would always be in there the next day.
I thought, “well it’s clear this kid can code”.
The kid turned out to be Peter Lau, who would join as our technical co-founder. I looked at it and thought we could add charts, coin info, order book, news. Basically everything me and Charlie wanted for ourselves to support our own investing. I decided I wanted to put the deal together. I asked Charlie if he would be CEO, given he had prior startup experience and was interested in mobile and crypto. He agreed, and we started the company. Charlie would join as CEO, Peter as the tech guy, me as biz dev, and we brought aboard our friend Ken Feldman (who later left to start a foundation to get a 747 to burning man) as the original UX / UI designer. We threw in $45k to get it started and ran the company for the first two years from that.
Then in 2017 when this big wave of interest came into the market, we were the only professional game in town and managed to pick up a lion share of the market as result. That was a whirlwind of epic growth. As result, later that year we raised our first real round of financing with a seed round of $3.15M led by Pathfinder (Founders Fund’s early stage investment vehicle), with additional investment from DCM Ventures (a $3B fund). Then a year after in Oct of 2018 we raised an $11.5M Series A round that was led by Pantera Capital with participation from other prominent investors in the space. Pantera has been amazing. They’ve been around for years and have a vast and deep contact network in the space. We love working with them and being able to leverage their network for the benefit of our users and the ecosystem.
So how did you get started with Blockfolio, and why? Early on, did you see an opportunity to fill a void in the market?
Charlie and I both had a clear understanding that Blockchain tech could fundamentally alter how databases interacted. We also knew that public blockchains were the future because private blockchains weren’t trustless. So we envisioned a future where there would be 10,000+ public blockchain assets that needed to be tracked. We were also way too familiar with the exchange fragmentation that existed, as for us it was already a pain to log onto multiple exchanges accounts and track our investments every day. So creating Blockfolio just made sense to us. We built it for ourselves but felt it had tremendous potential to be needed in a big way in the future. But originally it was just to sort of scratch our own itch.
We saw the need to build a portfolio tracking app that tracked all cryptocurrencies on all exchanges. Keep in mind 2014 when we started, almost all the portfolio tracking apps only tracked Bitcoin and the ones that tracked others had maybe 10 or 12 other cryptocurrencies listed. In the early days, I had a number of established Bitcoin whales tell me straight up that Blockfolio was a dumb idea because Bitcoin would be the only winner and there was no reason to spend time on these other tokens. They felt they would all die. But we believed in them and stuck to our guns, and just kept building. We sort of felt like Noah of Noah’s ark tale, telling everyone this big storm is coming. Loading up all the (trading) pairs we could put into our ship. People thought we were nuts and then 2017 came and boom! Next thing we know we went from 8,000 MAU to 2.2M MAU in 12 months spending $0 on paid user acquisition. It was all word of mouth growth. We were blown away.
So you experienced the boom in user adoption through 2017, and 2018 was a great year funding wise, so what’s the overall vision of the company?
Our goal is to build a platform that helps the ecosystem move from an era of investment speculation to one of real participation. I would say in a lot of ways that’s been my personal effort as well. This kind of endeavor is much easier said than done. To achieve it we realized we need to become one of the most trusted and accessible brands in crypto by connecting all participants for the benefit of the ecosystem. From this position, we can then begin to deliver broader and more impactful initiatives. Blockfolio Signal being the first one of those for us.
That leads me to my next question! Can you tell us a bit about Blockfolio Signal, a recent initiative of yours?
Blockfolio tackles the problems of misinformation in crypto social media and news sources by giving CEOs and lead developers of token teams a direct channel to reach and engage with their stakeholders. It allows token projects to have a closer and more meaningful relationship with their token base (those who hold or monitor their token).
And will you be launching similar features like Blockfolio Signal on your platform?
As Blockfolio Signal comes out of beta, we will be releasing a lot of requested new functionalities and features to improve the experience for both users and the token teams using the communication channel. We eventually plan to layer on services as well that both our users and token projects find valuable.
That makes me curious; are you planning on integrating in-app cryptocurrency purchases?
No. Transactions aren’t our thing. We do not have any plans to integrate in-app cryptocurrency purchases.
Understood. Now what has been your greatest achievement thus far, and what has been the biggest failure or setback personally or in the history of the company?
I would easily say it’s the team we’ve put together at Blockfolio. Everywhere from all my co-workers to advisors and investors. Not only from the perspective of ability but also from a culture perspective. I can honestly say they are all great people that I look forward to working with every day.
Otherwise, maybe I would say helping to co-originate the original idea for the governance and treasury system that Dash is known for, and helping behind the scenes with Dash while serving on the foundation, or maybe seeing the need for Blockfolio and Blockfolio Signal. These have all been large initiatives with strong successes, and I feel fortunate to have been able to spot them ahead of the curve. It’s flattering to see others in the space see the value of these as well and come out with similar projects. It really validates the ideas.
The biggest failure is a toss-up between that time I sold 16,000 Ethereum at $1.50, or when I sold 700,000 Stratis at $0.10. It’s so painful to know that I at one point had those sitting in a wallet. Sigh. Such a regret, but then again crypto, in general, is just a sea full of regrets for most of us. We love it so much no matter how bad it treats us.
Ouch, that must hurt till this day, haha, but let’s celebrate as it got you to where you are now!
So Ed, you have any major partnerships? And what kind of partnerships are you looking for?
Through Blockfolio Signal, we have direct relationships with the CEOs and founding developers of 250+ token teams now, including 0x, Monero, Zcash, Ontology, and more. We’ve also got a few big boy partnerships in the pipeline that will definitely be exciting to share when the time is right. The most recent one is teaming up with the folks at HTC and getting Blockfolio as a preset app in their recently launched crypto phone, Exodus. That being said, we are open to forming any partnership that will help increase adoption and participation in the crypto ecosystem!
What is the next step for Blockfolio in the next 1–2 years?
Just focus on building out Blockfolio Signal and to continue to innovate. We’re taking a very cautious and calculated approach with anything we put into Blockfolio. For instance, we want to make sure that Blockfolio Signal is not seen as a social network. There are too many of those. We have some ideas on how to turn it into something that’s never been seen before.
If you had to give props to one other cryptocurrency project or company apart from your own, who would it be and why?
Oh man, I’ve met so many great projects. First I just want to say I have mad respect for anyone who’s started a blockchain related business or cryptocurrency/protocol, big or small. These are all trailblazers. I would say I have crazy respect for the projects that are trying to solve problems in a practical way, are super smart, and show high principles or character. I’ll look past the obvious one which is Vitalik and ETH. I’ll point out some of the ones I think everyone should keep an eye on. Tony Sheng is a great rep for Decentraland. Collin Vine at Colony. Loi Luu at Kyber Network. I might get flamed for this because on the surface it’s adult content, but Ameen Soleimani who runs SpankChain is one of the brightest I’ve met in the space. His contributions to state channels and making transactions easier are massively important. Joseph Poon and Andrew Lee up at Handshake. Messari is doing great work too. Sorry can’t pick one of them, so I’ll give shout-outs to all of these.
Is Blockfolio working on something behind the scenes, and can we get a hint on what it might be?
We’re always working on stuff behind the scenes. That’s my favorite place to operate! Can’t share yet though, but looking forward to when we can. :)
Make sure to contact us by then, I’m sure we can do some coverage!
Where can people download your app, or otherwise support your business? Other than that, thank you for your time — any final words?
Check us out on Google Play or iTunes App Store. Yeah, man, to everyone out there supporting crypto right now, this bear market sucks. It’s as nasty as the last one. I’ve seen it all 3 times now, and I’m here to tell you everything is gonna be ok. At Blockfolio we’re trying to do everything we can to help the ecosystem move forward and hit mainstream. Plenty of other projects like us all over the world contributing in their own way. Just gotta believe and get into the mix. It’s gonna take time, but we’ll get there. And thanks to you guys for such an awesome opportunity to let me speak. It’s been a real delight.
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