BTC-Alpha Crypto Exchange was founded in 2015 by Ukrainian businessman Vitalii Bodnar as a platform for convenient trading with the English-Russian interface. It can be easily called a "veteran" in the crypto industry, but at the same time, very few people among Ukrainian crypto users know about BTC-Alpha. In this interview, we asked Vitalii Bodnar, CEO of the exchange about his business, hype, and shitcoins.
Vitalii, how did you get your first bitcoin?
I bought it on the BTC-e exchange with funds earned from crypto. At that time I was interested in mining Copper Lark (CL) and, if I'm not mistaken, Ripple launched the opportunity to receive coins if you give the computer power for calculating some tasks: the fight against AIDS, world crises and so on. It was 2013, and the Bitcoin then cost about $65.
What was the primary motive for creating crypto exchange - was this the interest of a crypto enthusiast or a businessman?
It was the trader's pain, I guess. At that time, I was already engaged in mining, which brought, in my opinion, small income. I had to sell the coins, and one moment, I realized that you could earn much more by trading. I had successful deals, in fact, not a single "minus" ... but once, I lost quite a large sum in a night. I broke my own rules: no alcohol at work, maximum prudence, do not repeat negative transactions, do not try to recoup... In the morning, I thought that in trading, someone gets, and someone loses. In this system, only the exchange can earn constantly.
Then I mathematically calculated the trading platform model: inputs/outputs/trading volumes. At that time, even Coinmarketcap did not exist. For analytics, I used BitcoinWisdom - it was the only resource that collected information on trading on 2-3 major exchanges. In fact, there were no competitors because there was no market at all. You come to investors/partners with a new business plan, the implementation of which requires quite a little money, but they say that it will not work and you are, actually, crazy.
Many people still do not even approximately understand what I am doing, and at some stage, this gap in the perception of the world was very significant. Now my activity is a symbiosis: a crypto enthusiast, a businessman, and a trader. There was a time when it was possible to choose "big money right now" or "much bigger in the future." I always wanted development.
What difficulties did you encounter while developing the BTC-Alpha platform?
Before founding a stock exchange, I had my own web design studio. We developed websites - we worked well, earned money, and felt quite confident on the market. When I wanted to create a crypto platform, I realized that we lack knowledge. In Vinnytsia, where we were located, then nobody even approximately could create a similar platform. In Kyiv, we found a development team, but at that time, the price tag of these services was hefty. We began to learn how to do commercial projects on our own. We took orders in half lower price, but with the condition that there may be some flaws that we have to resolve jointly. So after one year, we have mastered our skills in development, security, and also had found a client base.
The most difficult part was getting the first 10,000 users of the platform. Many people watched what I was doing on Facebook and VKontakte and waited for my fuckup. I set the exact release date — we had to start on 11/11/2014, and just before the launch that our server fell. We fixed that for one day to start everything on time. When we received the first reviews, we didn’t sleep for two weeks, because we’re busy with fixing bugs.
Later, we got great reviews and began to gain momentum, but the key problem was the low liquidity. Since we started with our own funds with a relatively small volume, the big customers did not come to us; they were not interested yet. It was a vicious circle because they said they would come when liquidity gets better, but this could not happen until they came.
Did you look for investors?
We had early investors who had the stake of the company. I have purchased most of them.
So you are OK with the fact that in the world of decentralization, you can be the central person in the company?
In any company, there is a central face. We are a crypto exchange in which there must be a leader who knows where all that is going and why. If there is no such person in the company, then it won't be able to develop. Many crypto enthusiasts say that decentralization is an important part of the work of the modern business, but they usually do it on Facebook only.
Is BTC-Alpha also engaged in crypto trading? Is crypto interest one of the criteria for getting a job?
At the initial stages, it was much easier to join our team. Then we were some crypto pirates, and we just had to be ready to work hard, think, and analyze. Many could not stand a mad pace. Now we work only with high-level professionals who meet the requirements of the platform. For example, from 80 candidates for a programmer position, only one person is currently working with us. It's vital to know the basics of trading. People who work on a product, of course, need to understand how it functions. It is not necessary to know all the details of the platform, but they definitely need to know the product. As for trading on the platform... I have nothing against it when it is done in free time.
Listing coins: how often do you get offers to list some shitcoin for money? How does the verification process go? Who makes the final decision about adding a coin to the platform?
Now our listings fell, as well as on other crypto platforms. It's Ok. A large number of projects contact us, from which we select only those that have history and reputation. If the project is built on controversial ideas — we won't add it; if there is a good team, clear goals, and values — then welcome.
How much has the exchange earned for Buzcoin? How has this collaboration happened?
It’s hard to bet that Buzcoin broke the mod. And despite that, I have to admit that this project has a team (it is another question whether it’s strong enough), and the public figure. Olya Buzova is quite recognizable in media, and she can support this brand. In the crypto world, where very often “cool”, “digital”, “progressive”, “anonymous” projects are discovered, Buzcoin has a real team and a public leader. So, they might be not perfect, but it’s only those who do nothing make no mistakes.
I have personal sympathy to Olya, as a self-made person, and we managed to agree on a listing of the project she supports. They contacted us, and we talked, I liked their vision of development. As for the listing conditions -- they are almost the same for everyone.
BTC-Alpha has a reputation as a secure exchange: tell us about the collaboration with Haken. How difficult is it today to maintain a high level of security?
Cybersecurity is the crucial moment to any crypto project. I met Haken (a Ukrainian team of white hackers — editorial note) on some crypto meetup. I was offered to make pentest (penetration test — editorial note) on our platform, and when they did it — they found nothing. Then we decided to check out the platform in detail, of course, we paid money for it, because it was reasonable to spend it than to risk. A full audit of the system showed one of the highest ratings, hackers found a minor problem, which we solved.
What other key points in the platform development do you pay attention to compete in the market successfully?
For me, first of all, history is essential. Those large companies that existed five years ago are more likely to continue their operations. You can easily find the history of the project on the Internet — who is the founder, team members, etc. Now I constantly follow the sphere of legal — it is expensive, difficult, but important. I am also interested in how trading terminals are built, although they are all about the same. The team is essential, of course, that's the criteria for me to evaluate the competitors.
How did an interest in IEO appear? Tell us about the path from idea to realization. What results do you expect from this project?
IEO hype continues the last 3-4 months. We decided to wait first to go into the product more wisely. We try to be innovators in some things, but my position is “better jewelry repetition of good than increased risks”. The first successful closure of the project on Alpha Paradise (the IEO platform of BTC-Alpha — editorial note) indicates that we are moving in the right direction. We have increased the number of applications for IEO, but we introduce even more rules for projects.
We will finalize some moments and I bet this will become a crowdfunding platform for the most exceptional startups, in which even I will be ready to invest.
It all depends on what investors put on: technology or Xs. The majority expects the growth of a token. It's not in my jurisdiction to predict what will happen. Our first IEO project, Real World Coupon, is a cool product that has MVP and a team — that’s what mattered in the selection process.
What will become the global cryptocurrency — TON or Libra? Should we expect someone else? Will it reduce the popularity of Bitcoin?
I guess, if Google launched a cryptocurrency in its infrastructure, it would take over the world. There is Libra, and TON — this is cool, this is scaling, but still, it's a twisted crypto model. I'm pretty sure that there will be complete globalization of the market. But yet, dollar, euro, and yen occupy leading positions. Not everyone understands that globalization exists to manage financial flows easily so that anyone can be cut off from his finances at any moment.
What for do crypto parties exist?
They can be different. I defined for myself some types:
- technological hackathons, where initiative guys gather;
- meetups of opinion leaders who talk about great things they’ve done;
- meetings to talk and have fun.
I don’t like the last ones. Sometimes it can be about projects that have collected 10 million at ICO and have already successfully spent them on drugs and Lambos. I don’t go to such parties because consider them ineffective.
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