Radical Transparency: the Utrust AMAs
Our lovely community sometimes surprises with the most wonderful opportunities. And that’s exactly what happened with this AMA.
You asked for it, you organised it, you asked the questions, and all we had to do was show up and answer. So let us start this written recap with a word of thanks. We wouldn’t be here without all you amazing people, who believed in this project from the get go, and who stuck with us through thick and thin.
You’re the real MVPs.
And we love talking to you guys. This is a bit of a spoiler, since this was only discussed at the very end of the conversation, but here goes: we’re going to make these AMAs a regular thing. And we’re bringing in more people. Nuno (our intrepid founder and CSO) and Sanja (our CEO and Fearless Leader) were at bat today, and they aren’t going anywhere, but we’ll make sure you hear from Jorge, Martinho, Rodrigo, and a lot more. You’ll get to ask anything you want to know about any of our teams.
On to the questions!
Now, if you want to watch the AMA, and listen to the answers in Nuno and Sanja’s melodious voices, here’s a link. Otherwise, just keep on reading, and we’ll give you a rundown of the best bits.
DrLuke (find him on Twitter @DrLukeCrypto1) was our courteous host, and he was the one who got the ball rolling by greeting all viewers in a few different languages. It was a symbolic start, since we truly do believe in borderlessness for our service. Cheers to DrLuke for that.
How does Utrust go about hiring people? (particularly Sanja)
Amusingly enough, it was Sanja who got in touch with Utrust. Sanja was at eBay then, and she was teaching herself about crypto payments, an area about which she was becoming more interested. Nuno was the one who answered her queries, and they quickly became friends. Sanja was passionate about the company from the get go. She was present at Utrust’s first live transaction, in fact, long before she joined.
Sanja was exploring options for crypto payments and she liked Utrust immediately. She wanted to join Utrust from the moment she met Nuno in person, in Milan, but she wasn’t sure she was ready to leave the corporate world. It took her another year (and a stint at PayPal). She joined when she was ready, and quickly became an indispensable element, eventually making it to CEO.
The second question is actually three questions. One, will codes be available elsewhere, two, will users be able to pay with the Hold app soon, three, will the app change name?
Nuno, in perfect Utrust numbers form, starts with the last one: for Utrust, changing the app’s name would be easy. Rebranding wouldn’t be a problem. But he feels like keeping the app with a different name is good, because then people won’t forget that Utrust is a payment gateway. Putting everything under the same brand could be confusing. He hints at a Hold powered by Utrust rebranding, but no guarantees here.
Hold the app, and Utrust the payment gateway, operate in different markets, which brings us to paying with the app. Off-chain payments are coming this year (that’s something to look forward to!), but Nuno finds that most users don’t really use the app for payments. As long as they can pay using Bitcoin, they aren’t too concerned about what app they use. And that’s as it should be, as far as Utrust is concerned.
“We just wanted to create it as seamless as possible and we did. Everybody can pay with their own wallet. (…) Obviously the number of payments with our wallet will be lower (…) Does this mean that we need to make a super big effort to have instant payments integration now? No.” -Nuno Correia
Card availability is also a challenge, because every country and territory has their own card purveyors, so it really depends on location. To be completely transparent, this could take months. Integration is easy, but legal due diligence, bureaucracy, negotiation of fees, etc. are a hassle and take time. It’s a process, and Utrust is tackling it.
Ultimately, chimes in DrLuke, the goal is digital payments on your phone. The goal isn’t cards. That’s not the long-term view.
“I would love not to have a card” -DrLuke
How about staking and token burning?
Nuno feels like these are two different topics once more.
The first one is staking. Tier 2 is getting released soon, which everyone agrees is exciting. Tier 1 was a proving ground, to understand the impact in the business model, and analyse user behavior. It was a success, and the details of tier 2 should be released soon, increasing the utility of the token.
Regarding burning, don’t hold your breath.
It’s a tricky topic, according to Nuno. Utrust wants to do it, but there’s issues. To explain, Nuno brings up the US market, where UTK isn’t listed yet. The demand from overseas is extremely high, with close to 50% of new merchant sign-ups coming from stateside, which Utrust can’t accept yet. The reason why Utrust doesn’t activate it yet is because there is the risk it could be considered a security and harm Utrust’s fate in the United States.
“We cannot jeopardize UTK being available on the US markets just because we want to rush the burn mechanism.” Nuno Correia
This doesn’t mean the burn mechanism is considered a security in Europe, but Utrust doesn’t want to risk anything and the company is being cautious.
DrLuke agrees, and he makes a very significant point:
“When we go global adoption, we need to know that there will be regulation. You need to comply with regulation, and if you don’t, you’re gonna be out.” DrLuke
How did Utrust arrive at your company values?
Sanja remarks that the whole team designed the values. They weren’t imposed by leadership. It was a company-wide brainstorm and what they came up with may seem obvious but isn’t.
- People first. A culture where people can grow and thrive. This is as important as the product.
- Transparency. Clear and open communication inside and outside the company. With COVID, and remote work, this one became even more important.
- Customer-centricity. Understanding buyers, sellers, customers, merchants and going the extra-mile. A shout-out to our cherished Jorge Rebelo, which Sanja says leads a best-in-class team that is just relentless in their mission.
- Boldness. Because we’re shaping the future we need to go where nowhere has been before. That means giving the team space to make mistakes. It’s important that everyone feels they can get things wrong.
Nuno and Sanja share the same mindset, which is a belief that everything can be overcome, even when things go wrong and unexpected hiccups happen.
How many people work at Utrust?
The answer is: more than 50. 70% directly, 30% outsourced. Most of the team is in Portugal, but Utrust is remote-friendly. Right now, because of COVID, Utrust is in fact remote-only.
What about competition? And integration? Who in the crypto community is most relevant?
Nuno immediately jumps in. He loves competition. Bitpay and Coinbase Commerce are the two only companies that are at Utrust’s level, as far as he’s concerned. Nuno feels competition itself has tested Utrust, making leadership very confident. Product, business, customer-support, the team is top-notch, and leadership would compare them favorably to anyone else’s.
There are other gateways, of course. Some don’t even process payments on-chain, others don’t have good value propositions.
Of course, Nuno understands Utrust isn’t Coinbase. Resources are finite, and that makes execution key. The perception is that this long-term vision, as well as the team’s strength, makes the company both comfortable and confident.
Sanja also has some thoughts about indirect competitors, both on the fintech and online payments markets.
“We constantly monitor competition. The likes of Checkout.com, Stripe, PayPal, are considered indirect competitors, because organically some of their customers are going to shift to crypto payments.” Sanja Kon
There is an internal team at Utrust that only does research, analysing direct and indirect competitors’ features, fees, etc. to understand competition perfectly and where Utrust stands in comparison to them.
Sanja also wants to talk about Utrust’s numbers, especially the +25M USD in transactions processed mark.
“This is an amazing result, because if you think about it, the majority of this volume was obtained in the second half of the year.” Sanja Kon
Utrust accelerated in the second part of the year because the company found a proper market fit. Now, everything is in place to capitalise on this knowledge. 2020 was about growing, putting together a team and finding that fit. 2021 is about execution, and our CEO is very excited.
Is the company breaking even? How are finances?
Utrust has an excellent path to profitability, in 18 to 24 months. That’s without even considering extra revenue streams.
Utrust also means to have a Series A in the next 18 months to accelerate growth and find the right investors with the right skills. Utrust wants to grow well, and healthily (as it has been doing so far).
Let’s get personal for a second. What are Nuno and Sanja’s hobbies?
For Sanja, it’s all about self-development and following amazing coaches like Tony Robbins and others. Mindfulness as well, and tools that can help you grow every day. Meditation, yoga, anything that can help alleviate stress.
Nuno tries to spend as much of his free time as he can with his daughter. She’s two, and playing games with her is the perfect hobby. He also enjoys sci-fi and documentaries. He has a hard time finding good stuff, and he asked for recommendations. So, if you have any ideas… He’s @nunocor_ on Twitter.
Comments on the roadmap to 2021
Sanja speaks first, about the topics she’s most excited about.
- Enabling crypto payments and settlements, because it’s often requested. The challenge is to figure out how to offer this to merchants. Some will be more familiar with crypto than others. Many will know very little about blockchain so they will need a more sophisticated service.
- Major improvements to exchange mechanisms, both for Hold and Utrust, to provide the best rates to customers and improve business profitability.
- Consolidating payment experience. The customer team did a lot of interviews and realized this was key. Being able to tackle cases like underpayments quickly.
- Security. Audits will be back to the system.
- The whole B2B area. Utrust started as a B2B2C, serving merchants whose customers are buyers. Cross Border trade payments are key, so offering a better B2B solution is essential.
- Nice surprises coming for the Wallet.
Will you be able to swap from UTK to USDC?
Simple answer: yes. You will be able to swap from UTK to all of the currencies. It hasn’t happened yet because there is no pair from UTK to some other tokens on Utrust’s liquidity providers. To convert from UTK to USDC right now, you’d need to go through USDT in the background. This makes it more laborious, but it’s being built. You can count on it in a couple weeks.
DrLuke finds that the fact the Hold app allows these switches without charging you (paying you, in fact, in UTK) is one of the app’s major selling points.
We agree with DrLuke. It is quite wonderful indeed.
Nuno thinks it’s a beautiful model. Utrust doesn’t apply specific fees. There’s a spread, of course, but that’s not something Utrust can control. Utrust uses liquidity providers, and it’s beyond the company’s reach. He recommends that you always check order book rates before making large conversions.
And now we go to questions from the audience. Short and sweet.
Is there a strategy for attracting small vs big customers?
Sanja explains how that works: Utrust has a business partnership team, which is led by Rodrigo Russell. The strategy has several layers, and large, medium and small businesses all obey different criteria.
How much UTK will users have to stake in tier 2?
Nuno is a very democratic man, and he wants to take it to the community. He doesn’t want to exclude users with smaller amounts of tokens, but he won’t make any decisions without consulting the users.
How about the Utrust store and merch? People want mugs and shirts.
It’s coming! With the COVID situation, it becomes tricky to go to facilities that produce these things, but once the pandemic has settled, that will definitely happen.
Can you tell us a little about the customer advisory board?
Some pretty amazing people there from eBay, Amazon, Farfetch, aviation… Everyone brings specific knowledge that sometimes implicates spending months finding people to hire internally. They play an important role in Utrust’s success.
How important is the token’s success?
It’s a win-win situation, feels Nuno. He’s in charge of this specific department and he’s adamant that he will make it go well. Not just because of the token, mind, but also because the token’s success will promote the company’s success and vice-versa.
Utrust needs to win in both situations.
Which is, in fact, a perfect tone to finish this article as well.
It was a true joy for Nuno and Sanja to answer all your questions, and we hope you have enjoyed reading our recap.
Until next time, we bid you adieu 👋