Interview with TOKENSQUARE co-founders on Altcoin Magazine
TOKENSQUARE is a curated news, media, jobs and community portal for blockchain professionals & crypto enthusiasts. We make it easy to navigate the latest developments, use cases, and opportunities by aggregating over 1000 sources and curating them with human and machine scoring. https://app.tokensquare.com
Hi guys! Let’s just dive in and talk about your project. First, tell us about your experience and journey working on cryptocurrencies. Who or what motivated you to join the cryptocurrency space?
Martin Rerak: I was initially intrigued by the concept of a global digital currency around 2013. But I didn’t jump into the space until the end of 2015 once I understood the nature of distributed ledger technology. Based on my operations and finance background across industries there was this immediate realization of the value of blockchain technology for enterprise, commercial and consumer applications.
I was most excited about the potential value of the tokenization of various assets like real estate, equity, esoteric investments like art and digital collectibles. Especially the potential of fractional ownership whereby an asset like a hotel or an art collection could be split into say 10,000 shares reflected with a token and smart contract. This would drastically even the playing field for regular investors and individuals that don’t typically have access to such investments. Wealthy entities can already create co-operative agreements, real estate investment trusts and use other mechanisms to purchase shares of assets within a group. Tokenization could not only provide efficiencies for those mechanisms but also make these assets accessible to broad participation.
Fractional ownership is a unique value of asset tokenization, enhancing liquidity, efficiency and empowering broad capital participation. Additional benefits can include automation, traceability, trust and dynamic new asset classes.
Tokenization also allows for asset-to-asset trades, incredible efficiency without administrative middlemen, and varying degrees of traceability and privacy. There is also a unique ability to create unique assets like collectible digital media, tokenizing careers of say musicians or athletes or tying equity ownership to consumer perks. Then so much more potential of tying this to AR/VR, supply chain, unfortunately, the feasibility of these use cases won’t be limited by technology but by regulations. There is definitely a balance and I hope we realize at least several.
Looking back there is something that makes me laugh which is that I ended up buying DogeCoin, Feathercoin and Quark coin… some of the earliest ‘shitcoins’ .. because Bitcoin was ‘too expensive’ ’in 2013. I think it was around $100 to $200. I actually bought Doge at a mining facility called Vault of Satoshi in Brantford, Ontario, Canada. And I bought the others on eBay and I was sent printed copies of the private keys, well before I understood the implications. And icing on the cake... I ended up losing the passwords and printouts. Fun times.
Mike Borowski: What got me interested was the technology behind the currencies (since that’s the only working use case), but how this could be applied to other industries, and no I don’t believe blockchain belongs in every industry like it’s made out to be by a lot of people. A lot of the time it is not financially bearable for the industry to take on a blockchain and the needed decentralizing for security benefit.
Tell us more about the founding TOKENSQUARE and what the problem was that you were addressing?
Martin: The problem was low-quality volume content that wasn’t easy to navigate for any specific interest or use case like trading, investing, real estate tokenization, traceability, etc. Researching and staying up to date in the space was such an administrative burden. By 2016 for me this included over a dozen publications, about 20 slack groups each with over 10 channels, twitter, facebook groups, youtube, over 20 telegram channels, Reddit threads and 100’s of random sources and guides. I was managing but it just wasn’t efficient and definitely not something that I could recommend to curious investment savvy friends or enterprise colleagues.
Our goal is to leverage our expertise and apply data science to curate these channels and make it much faster to navigate specific use cases or tokens.
Mike: Joining a paid telegram group and starting a twitter account with an anonymous avatar is not the entrance most people want to a community, especially one with such large financial ties. We address this directly by harboring a professional community that wants to engage in discussion on news, attend events, connect and collaborate, or even look into careers in the blockchain and crypto industry.
In your opinion, what are the challenges in making sense of crypto space and investment decisions?
Martin: Fraud, manipulation, regulation and intuitive experiences in that order. At Tokensquare, we curate news and media about trading and market predictions, project updates, regulatory updates, and research. We also have some articles about getting started with cryptocurrency. We are attempting to making things more intuitive to improve onboarding across use cases.
But when it comes to investment decisions the path is riddled with danger. The reality is that most tokens represent vaporware projects or ones with terrible business models. Many advisors have no moral compass and many experts have barely a clue about the technology or use cases but pay to be on stage. Many token offerings were also not legally compliant. Many tokens models have a distribution that allows for market manipulation and dumping. And if you do come across something that isn’t fraudulent, doesn’t have a pointless token, and does solve a problem… at that point, it still typically isn’t intuitive or interoperable for the target user. Proceed with caution.
Mike: The number one, in my opinion, is that there is extreme bias and unfair practices currently in the space, there is nothing out there cutting out the noise. There could be 3000 accounts on twitter shilling a coin that catches eyes but a lot of the time it’s because they are sitting on bags of huge losses trying to get out from underwater.
How do you solve the problem? What makes you unique?
Martin: We curate blockchain and cryptocurrency content from 1000’s of sources around the web with human expertise and data science. Our goal is to be the better, faster, and focused experience for staying up to date and identifying opportunities in the space. Regardless of whether you are a professional exploring enterprise use cases, a venture fund looking for opportunities, a job seeker, a trader or otherwise interested in the space.
There are a few aggregators out there and you could make your own RSS feed, but more than this we are providing intelligently curated content in an intuitive format that also ties in modules like jobs, events, venture listings and community. In our beta, we already have news, media and social scoring with easy to navigate use cases. Our goal is much more ambitious as we are building out advanced systems with data science to improve curation for the specific individual, sentiment scoring and AI-driven insights.
Mike: The biggest thing I see that we offer is the news feed of curated sources, but what makes us unique is the Reddit style upvoting, this forces top content to rise to the top making it easy to keep track of what’s actually going on in the industry, this is additionally filterable to follow your favorite coins and sources.
What about your TOKENSQUARE app. What is your vision? Tell us more about that.
Martin: Where professionals start their day. That’s our motto and vision. We are the better, faster, focused feed for industry news, media, research and opportunities. Our vision is that other professionals will be able to stay up to date and find what they are looking for without having to navigate dozens of publications and social channels. We are not competing with those, rather we are the portal to what is relevant and quality.
The app to be clear is a web app. You modify your view from light or dark mode as well as modify how to list content shows up along with being able to bookmark, share, upvote and comment. All the normal expected things.
There are no downloads, just go to https://app.tokensquare.com
Mike: I see it as an interactive growing professional community to learn, discuss, and catch up with what’s going on in the blockchain and crypto industry whether you have 5 mins to scroll through the top trending stories each morning, or have more time to engage with others in the community in discussion or even projects! I want it to be a safe environment where asking questions is encouraged vs coming set in stone on subjects.
How do you add value to the crypto media market?
Martin: We make blockchain and crypto intuitive to access and easy to follow and research whether you are starting out or an established professional in the space. By curating the blockchain and crypto space with behind the scenes human and machine scoring and categorization we eliminate the need to spend time navigating dozens of sources to try to find what is relevant and quality. We are also on a path to adding value to the space by generating data-driven insights that can drive decision making not just for traders but for those pursuing specific use cases.
Mike: We provide clarity by minimizing the noise through a curated news feed and giving a platform for the community to vote on the value of a news story. A lot of people hop from source to source or rely on a single source, and it’s always good to be using multiple reliable sources especially in a field you have a monetary tie to.
Why do you think your services are needed and how do you adapt to the volatility of the market? What are your views on customer experience?
Martin: The customer is always first. That’s a big part of the shortcomings in this space that I have observed since 2015. Things are not built for the customer but in a way that expects the customer to change. Successful products don’t just add value. The best brands build products and services that are intuitive and forgivable (guaranteed to some degree). Our aim is to accomplish the same thing. The platform was built as a web application so there is no download necessary. We offer valuable free experience, various custom views and filters and an experience that feels as simple as Reddit or Linkedin. Whatever the app, be it a wallet or media platform, really anything.. it has to be customer first.
As to volatility, market trends and trade are just one of the categories we cover. We more broadly also cover news, media, and research for actual applications such as tokenization or security tokens and regulations for digital media, real estate, commodities, etc. The volatility is not something that affects our value proposition through the insights we aim to generate are intended to offer an edge to those who do participate in the market.
Mike: I think a professional community is needed for not only the adoption of new people but to create a platform for current groups who feel restricted by the limited opportunities on current platforms that are not specific to blockchain and crypto, although there have been communities created on twitter, discord, and telegram, etc.; it is just not up to the standard I look for in a platform and we are here to provide the blockchain and crypto. We are here to be that place!
Customer experience is #1, especially for us. They are our community, the platform is made specifically to enhance their productivity and browsing habits of the blockchain and crypto media!
So, you saying that TOKENSQUARE offers better, faster, focused feed for all things blockchain and crypto, right? How did you achieve that?
We bring together all of the relevant pieces and in addition to aggregating we also curate. What that means is that we have actually visited over 500 sources and independently viewed, listened to or read their content and assigned some scoring and categorization at a basic level. We can also set thresholds on certain content. For example, only showing tweets from our vetted list and only those tweets that have at least 1,000 likes. For news and media, we have extensive categories and the option for both regular users and vetted mentors to upvote or super upvote or downvote content. This alone makes it much easier and faster to stay up to date on content.
Beyond this, our efforts in scrapping and data science should lead to much more valuable insights and personalized curation. We’re on the way.
How big your team is and what makes them special?
We are currently a team of 3 co-founders with a network of some exceptional contractors and market partners. Each of us has a unique background and set of skills and all 3 of us have been in the cryptocurrency and blockchain space since at least 2015. We have a depth of understanding of various blockchain protocols, market trends, types of tokens, tokenization use cases, the regulatory environment, and consumer and enterprise or commercial applications.
Both Michael and Nick are developers and Nick specifically has built a variety of blockchain adtech, eCommerce and tokenization solutions. I have been involved in applications across verticals, exploring relationships with broker-dealers for security tokens and digital media and collectibles. Michael previously built an aggregator and grew a publication’s audience with a focus on marketing and product experience in addition to being a developer himself.
All of this to say that we are the first step in the curation process. If you want to be a curator you have to know your stuff. Otherwise, you are just aggregating.
What about the company’s roadmap? Which milestones did you achieve and what can we expect in the near future?
We launched in beta at the end of August and we’ve had user growth and site visits grow without any actual marketing to date. For any startup launch and initial users is a great first step. Right now the site includes blockchain news, media, jobs, events, resources, and community platform. We have over 27,000 pieces of content, 100 research papers and an active feed of jobs from dedicated platforms. We also have an education partnership with blockgeeks, an exceptional education and certification platform; https://blockgeeks.com/tokensquare/
In terms of priorities, at this point, we are working on improving the quality of content analysis and curation as well as working toward launching some additional community features and new modules. The next roadmap components are in alpha about 40% to 80% complete. We want to avoid scope creep and improve on what we have at this point along with getting pilot users. Some things to look forward to including partner deals, webinars, our podcast, company pitch directory and an improved user experience that will bring the top stories to focus better.
The first 2100 users can use code FIRST2100 to get 60% off forever which includes pro and enterprise accounts. FIRST21000 offers 40% off.
Is there anything that you guys are particularly excited about that is on your planned crypto journey?
Martin: I’m excited for a milestone that is a bit ahead which is getting top news, trends, keywords and insights report generated by our AI system for any period of time. That is intelligent curation at it’s finest when AI re-writes the most important elements into a clear narrative.
Mike: I’m personally excited about the jobs section to be optimized and extremely user-friendly because everyone knows how terrible the application grind is the majority of the time. This is also a great way to get more people working on great technology! But talking about optimization, I just think if we can help anyone’s daily routines and make it as convenient as possible, I am all for it!
Who are your partners and who would you like to collaborate with in the future?
The cryptocurrency and blockchain space in many ways fell victim to greed and ego which has resulted in walled gardens. You have projects that want to be everything for everybody. They want to be the protocol, the news site, the app, the exchange, the broker-dealer, the everything. It doesn’t make sense to us to expose oneself to such scope creep and a zero-sum game in a space that is still in early growth. It actually makes onboarding customers more challenging as it presents them with fragmented options that bear more commercial risk.
All of that to say that we are looking to working with other projects and individuals who offer value and see collaboration as a priority. Our users will have varying needs including management consulting, trading signals, job seeking, event marketing, development, custody, security, eCommerce and much more. Partnering with entities like Lolli, Binance, Harbor, The Block, KeepKey, CoinGecko, among many others would be a great start and we are pushing for dialogue.
Is there a way to get involved with TokenSquare?
Martin: We are actively seeking potential partners which may value engaging in a joint venture operating model as well as approaching investors regarding our seed round.
We are also looking for podcasters or journalists that have a good grasp of the space and would be interested in creating some limited exclusive or dedicated content with revenue share as a model.
Mike: If you are a writer, developer, or have other ideas in the industry you can contact me directly at Grow@tokensquare.com! We love to work with brilliant minds in the field.
Guys thank you for the answers. Is there anything else in your mind that you would like to add before we finish?
Martin: Thanks for having us. I enjoy sharing mental models and tidbits that can really help some people navigate life. Here is one from Jack Ma of Alibaba:
“there is no shame in not knowing, but there is shame in not knowing and pretending that you do”
And if you aren’t a fan of Jack Ma here is another…
“it isn’t what you don’t know that hurts you most, it’s what you do know that just ain’t so”