We had the privilege of speaking with Loi Luu, co-founder of Kyber Network, The Decentralized Exchange Service that enables conversion of crypto assets. Kyber was also one of the most successful ICOs of 2017.
Kyber network is a decentralized exchange that allows a seamless and secure conversion with guaranteed liquidity. The project runs entirely on the blockchain, and allows secure exchange of crypto tokens with no single point of failure, making it extremely difficult to compromise the exchange. Kyber is also a payment service provider, with a dedicated token conversion service. In the case where you’re a merchant, and you only accept a certain type of crypto, Ethereum for example, the Kyber service allows your users to pay in any other token and the conversion is powered by the Kyber Network, in the background.
Q: You recently announced a partnership with a few wallets, could you elaborate on that?
A: Recently we announced a partnership with three more wallets. One of them is IMToken, and I think they have more than 1 million monthly active users and they’re the most popular wallet in China. With this partnership, users can just use the exchange service powered by Kyber within their token wallet, and their coins and tokens never have to leave the wallet. They don’t need to go to any other central authority when they want to conduct an exchange, they can do everything within their token wallet.
Q: Your token sale ended successfully in mid-September 2017, which in token sale terms is like pre-history. You’ve raised 200K Ether (equivalent to 60M USD back then) from over 21,000 wallets across 130 countries. I assume you have an interesting perspective today as to how the token sales have evolved ever since?
A: When we had our sale last September, which is around six months ago, in the crypto world six months is a long time, and so many things have changed. From what we know so far more and more people are trying to raise funds through a token sale. We have been seeing more traditional startups that raised or are getting funding from other VCs, starting to tokenize their own product. So crypto creates a lot more traction, which is good because now we can actually reach out to more mainstream users. But at the same time, I think we really need some sort of standard or framework for these projects. The aim would be that people who want to have a token sale will need to follow that, as there’s currently no consistent way or guideline for people to have an open sale. That’s why there are projects which actually abuse it and just create some sort of scam scheme for raising money and running away. That is going to affect the entire ecosystem because some people now see token sales as just a get-rich-quick scheme. It doesn’t actually provide anything useful to the entire ecosystem. So we need ways to prevent that.
Several countries are already working on their own regulatory framework for token sales. Even here in Singapore, there is some sort of token sale guideline – you may need approval from central banks here or another authority, so probably you’ll need to get some sort of license. It will probably take a couple of years until things get more stable and the picture becomes clearer.
Q: I’m wondering what were your considerations when you were thinking about having a token sale?
A: I think we took a careful approach to the token sale. We were the first to actually do the full “Know Your Customer” (KYC) on all the contributors in our token sale. We had something like 60,000 people who submitted applications to clear the KYC, and we worked for more than ten days to approve more than 40,000 applications. We also created our own “Minimum Viable Product” (MVP), which was a sort of demo on testnet, so that users could actually learn about our product and understand what we are offering at Kyber Network. We didn’t do a lot of viral marketing or marketing campaigns where you ask people to advertise the product and then give them rewards or tokens. What we did do was create a blog post about the product and platform in English where we explained everything – the roadmap, architecture, and other applications that are supported on our platform. We try to educate our users, we try to engage with them on all media channels as well. We have around ten moderators on our Slack channel to answer every question. You know, I’d picked up the Slack channel back then and got something like 30,000 people and it broke. So Slack approached us and asked us to close the invitation list. Anyway, we invested into education and in user engagement before the token sale, so they knew what they were buying instead of trying to raise money at all costs.
Q: You have an engaged community in your Telegram channel, and followers expect major announcements every two weeks. Don’t you find it quite challenging to have concrete announcements in such short periods? How does this influence your decision making and milestones?
A: It does influence our decision-making because most of the time we will have a couple
of people who will just engage with the community and listen to their feedback and see what they really expect from the team and then we sit together, and we discuss internally to see if what we are doing will eventually match the expectations of the community.
In our team we have different people responsible for community, product, market, business and establishing new partnerships. That way the product people don’t get disturbed by random questions on Twitter or Telegram, but at the same time we are taking care of the community, we share what we are working on and what they can expect in a year or in the longer term. It requires some resource from us to do all that, but that’s why we add people to our team. When we had our token sale, the team had seven people, and currently, we already have more than 30 people.
Q: You’re actually building something that people are asking for
A: Exactly. For example – a couple of months ago our community complained a lot about us not reaching out and not doing enough marketing in China, so people in China didn’t hear enough about Kyber Network. So we listened to them, and we also did our own survey, we flew our staff to talk to the community over there to see what they know and understand about the Kyber network.
We realized that actually, they didn’t know much about us, so we started hiring marketing people to engage the community in China and in other countries as well. That is one example of how we actually listen and learn from the community
Q: Kyber conducted one of the earlier airdrops back at the time when it had just become popular. What would you advise companies who want to conduct air drops nowadays?
A: Previously when we did an airdrop, we had talked only to the people who actually did the KYC on our platform, so we interacted with the people who actually cared about our product. Nowadays, I think people are using airdrops as some sort of marketing activity, trying to get more people to get their token to more users. Some send it to any address that they can grab hold of, and some to any Ethereum wallet. This is actually similar to spamming in some sense because I’m not expecting to receive anything from you and you’re just wasting my time while I investigate what this token is and why I have it. I think airdrops should be done in a proper manner – for example, to develop your community and only give it to the people that actually care about your product. People that are trying to learn a few things about you and your project – you can create some sort of questionnaire, and the users that answer the questions correctly can get some tokens as a reward. This can be a really good activity because you can educate your users at the same time as they consume more tokens.
Q: What is your vision as to decentralizing the exchanges, what is your perspective on your industry, with so many centralized exchanges out there?
A: I guess almost a year ago at Kyber Network, we started thinking about what are the other problems that we should address, and we realized that cryptocurrency exchanges are still the most centralized component in this industry. There are no entirely decentralized and trustless environments, so that’s why we wanted to create something that is really impactful and is going to benefit the entire ecosystem that has millions of people. Currently most of the users are using centralized exchanges for several reasons: first of all – the access to fiat – not many decentralized exchanges, if any, can offer you trading between tokens and fiat currency like US Dollars. Centralized exchanges still do that best, and that’s why people still prefer them. Secondly, there is a history of look and feel of a centralized exchange. They get a lot of inspiration from other trading platforms and other financial products – that’s why the user experience feels secure. The decentralized solution is pretty new, and most of the solutions are less than a year old, and they still have a lot to do to improve the user experience, the UI, the engine, and everything. I think in the near-future, centralized exchanges will still dominate in trading crypto. But I would say in around five to ten years the decentralization is going to take over everything, given that the UI/UX is going to improve, security will not be compromised, and those solutions will have no less to offer than existing centralized solutions.