Special Guest Sanja Kon, CEO of Utrust | Digest & Invest
hello everyone and welcome to a very special episode of the digest and invest podcast brought to you by shirin i am sam north the ciniki school lead here based in london or i should say southwest london today as i moved uh house yesterday back to teddington i’m joined of course by josh gilbert based out in.
Rainey sydney he is telling me but a very special guest today uh samuel fond the ceo of you trust uh sanja how are you i’m great thank you great to be here awesome and josh how are you as well i’m okay thank you sam yeah keeping well keeping busy not enjoying uh sydney.
Weather but there we go trying to keep up on top of these uh omicron cases and another variant but there we go yeah there’s not not too many people complaining about sydney weather by the way but here we are uh sanji we were we were supposed to to meet obviously in web.
Summit in portugal but obviously you’re incredibly busy how was uh how was web summit for you oh it was amazing i was really this was my fourth time at the web summit um so i was pretty amazed by you know the importance given to web 3 at the web summit uh which for me you know compared to two years ago from the last in-person.
Event uh it’s not even comparable right um and also the quality of the speakers uh the number of women on stage was truly remarkable how was it for you yeah it was good fun we we obviously had um a a stand right by the women in investing uh section where people could go sit and.
Network so yeah it’s great fun um the weather was nice as well and we got to uh to to meet some of our team that are based out in israel which was fantastic as well so it’s a good sort of just networking experience and incredibly inspirational out there i couldn’t believe it some of the people we spoke to were just.
Just some of the smartest minds it was uh it was great yeah really good fun did you um did you manage to explore lisbon i’m obviously like you said you’re based in portugal and uh you’ve been there before but uh did you get out and about yeah so i’m based between italy and portugal and we are in the north of portugal braga which is 30 minutes from.
Porto um i’ve been to lisbon quite a few times but it’s always nice to be there it’s it’s a great city it’s quite vibrant um so yeah there was a lot to do in the evenings as well uh lots of events both web 3 related and tech related um so yeah i think that week was mostly about networking and gathering and as.
You said like talking to a lot of people um very inspirational i haven’t had the chance to really explore but yeah we have time to do that yeah there’s always next time and then i heard rumors that they’re at some point going to get capacity up to 150 000 uh someone was telling me which would just be.
Insane uh considering i think there was about 40 odd 40 50 000 this time so that’s going to be uh yeah a lot busier um for those that don’t know senior uh it’d be sort of great to get an overview on you trust and your sort of your vision and and your mission on all of that oh yeah for sure so you trust is a web.
Three payment ecosystem uh so when i say well three it means blockchain native um so my background is traditional payments and any commerce prior to utrust i spent several years working for large corporations mostly in london so near uh near to you um so i worked for vodafone ebay and and paypal and long story short um when i worked at.
Paypal i quickly realized the inefficiency of traditional payments um and started to research how we can improve it um and got really interested into using blockchain as a layer for more efficient payments um so i wanted to use blockchain um in my solution at paypal which was marketplace payments um but it.
Was too early um and therefore in 2018 i decided to um to leave my corporate career um co-founded you trust with the original founder nuno so what we do is basically we enable anyone to pay with cryptocurrencies and we enable any merchant to accept cryptocurrency um as a payment method so.
They can either you know settle in fiat so euros gpp etc so what we do is basically we convert the Hikimar payment into a traditional form of payment um so business as usual um and you know the merchant doesn’t need to uh think about any volatility of cryptocurrency they just continue to settle in their.
Bank account um however they open up their business to a new asset class of customers who want to pay with crypto um or for more you know evolved um merchants and more and more it’s uh that’s the case they can settle in crypto as well um as a form of payment and it’s a great proposition for merchants really because it allows them.
Not only to decrease costs to eliminate chargebacks but to open up to a new market and it’s more than um 300 million customers paying with crypto globally um and you know that number uh doubled only from like five months ago or something and so uh growing population of users who are passionate about playing with crypto.
Sorry you wanted to ask something no i know you’re all good now but i think in terms of obviously what you were saying there the adoption and obviously that growth that you’ve seen um sort of this year i wanted just to just to jump in and ask i was actually really interested to know in terms of your merchants do you see merchants.
Actually choosing to settle in fiat or are you seeing a bigger increase now of merchants actually wanting to settle and actually hold crypto has that changed a lot recently it’s changing i have to say for more traditional merchants you know the fiat settlement option is still the case especially if we’re talking about um.
Large customers however that’s changing um so a good chunk of merchants are getting interested so at least for like part of their like a small percentage of their uh settlement part they want to um try and use cryptocurrencies mostly because um they see it as a way to invest in crypto and get get invested so that’s more like for traditional.
Merchants while you know we serve a lot of blockchain and web3 merchants as well and for them it’s kind of like native already um so for them it’s it’s the standard to settling crypto so i think it really depends like on the vertical and the industry as well yeah absolutely and it’s great that you know you can facilitate um you know.
Merchants to be able to to accept that because ultimately i think from from my perspective we are on that sort of trajectory of you know crypto becoming very very mainstream as you say we’ve sort of seen that you know more so than ever in 2021 but from your perspective where do you see the the future of crypto where do you see us heading with.
Crypto i think um this year was really key for crypto right so it all started last year but this year we saw an explosion of crypto usage for multiple reasons so large institutions coming in the space um also companies like paypal starting to um enable crypto so bringing more trusts uh.
Trust let’s say to uh to the masses um because crypto before that was only in my opinion for like a small niche of customers and now it’s becoming more more massively adopted i think you know the key in the next few years will be to see how regulation plays out as well because in the end if we want you know crypto to be massively adopted uh.
We need more regulations but we need a clear um regulation per country and and possibly you know with the opportunity to for that to be homogeneous across you know europe and the u.s um so people understand how to treat it companies can understand um how to process crypto.
Payments what to do with that um you know what they need to declare what they don’t need to declare because i think you know that’s um that’s the key part now for for payments at least um and i think you know one thing that i’m really passionate about is bringing more women as well as investors um into crypto and web3 and i think for.
Women they are more risk adverse um than men really generalizing so we need for we need to solve for like a better um ux ui uh more simplicity um because today it’s still i think really complicated for a person in web 2 uh not understanding and not understanding dynamics of web3 to to really start buying crypto.
Investing in crypto um it’s still a bit unclear for them so we really need to invest in like better ux ui um education and and bringing more people in um but i think the next few years will be amazing is just the start um and we have you know.
Nfps we have the five there are so many things that are gonna play um a huge role um and for you trust in particular uh we pre-announced this a few times but we’re working on um really incorporating defined mechanisms into our platform so for merchants you know when they start settling in crypto they can earn interest on top of that as well.
So instead of like paying fees and they can earn money and it’s you know changing completely the party game of um again what is the gateway representing for customers yeah that’s fascinating um and you know you mentioned it there about obviously you know web 2.0 web 3.0 metaverse maybe we need to just really focus on smashing.
The internet before we maybe move to the metaverse like you say let’s get everyone uh in tune on on just web 2.0 first before we move too fast but um but as you say you know we’re seeing that you know pickup of merchants wanting to accept payments but why do you think the consumers will use crypto over.
Traditional fiat currency moving forward and why do you think we’re seeing that right now um i think you know in in my case for example once i really understood you know what money is and how the traditional financial system works i think it’s then.
Natural for people to use crypto i think you know however in countries like you know our countries in in europe or australia or the us um we have our own currency um we kind of like trust the government as well we keep money in the bank i’m talking about like mass population right so we don’t really question like what is going on.
Behind the scenes um while in highly inflationary countries that’s why we see like a lot of people already using crypto to hedge their wealth because they don’t trust the government um the currency is highly inflationary and there they already see an opportunity in crypto.
So therefore like there’s a higher adoption there and i think you know in in more developed countries people are waking up right now so there’s a whole like movement and shift um but once you really understand what is going on like why would you trust a bank like why would you trust the government when you can trust yourself and and technology.
Like to keep your money um to to manage your own money to have control to spending like however you want and and that’s i think you know the key shift that people need to need to make like why would i trust like a third entity to manage like money that that i make for working every day and then i need to depend like on a bank um.
For like their working hours and whatever like pay for withdrawals like why would i ever do that um so i think you know that’s the key mindset my um shift that people are making now as well as really you know reducing uh payment costs when sending money anywhere um so let’s take the example like of.
Immigrants sending money from the u.s to whatever mexico or like the main corridors for um for that today like on a 200 payment i would pay 20 just to stand the payment why would i do that when i can do it like for a super short fraction of the cost with crypto um so i think you know.
That’s that’s the main advantages like freedom it’s having control of your money um really cost efficient and and borderless for for customers but for those that are are skeptical on on crypto and of course there’s still a few people there that are what would you what would you say to them to almost like convince them you know this is you.
Know the way forward and you know this isn’t um you know a bad thing i think you know i would probably start small so start reading about it get comfortable um people need to understand more before doing the ship i think it’s a wrong entrance into web 3 just to say oh let me buy some bitcoin i don’t.
Understand anything but i know it’s like highly volatile and i can make some money and i don’t think that’s the right way for people to get involved i think first people should should learn more about you know how how is the current uh financial system working let me read about like how is my bank managing my what are they doing.
With my money in the bank and once they understand that and they can start you know reading more about what blockchain is what what what is even like a cryptocurrency what is bitcoin uh what is the mechanism behind it um and that’s i think a better a better way to to do that and then of course you know starting.
Small um starting to to invest a bit there are so many projects now in in web 3 so you cannot be on top of everything and really understand what are you passionate about um are you passionate about nfts or dows or defy or you just want to like put part of your money in bitcoin and ethereum and so i think is is really like a process of um.
Starting to understand tradition the traditional industry and and then what blockchain is about and getting passionate about something in blockchain first yeah i mean i i um i mentioned the beginning of the the podcast i’ve just moved moved house i moved back to my parents but i just saw.
My place in clapham and i’m in my dad’s office and for those that are watching on youtube you can sort of see all these books and he’s he’s been in finance for years he’s retired now but i remember coming back back home just to visit a couple of years ago and there was books on blockchain and.
Everything and he’s you know nearly 60 where he’s over 60 years old now it’s never too late to learn how to get into it and it’s uh yeah he’s he absolutely loves it all now that’s incredible you mentioned and i was looking for your your twitter earlier you’re you know very passionate on sort of getting women into business and technology and uh i.
Know you’re you’re sort of keen and invested yourself do you see that really sort of picking up i mean we at etoro started this invest with her campaign really trying to get women into investing and it’s it’s had really good feedback are you seeing a good pick up in all of this um yes and no i think we are still um at.
The beginning so the infancy um but i think we can we can do a lot and i think this is the best time as well for women and really anyone not necessarily women to get involved um first because web 3 is growing at a pace that you know there’s more demand for people than supply but there are.
More jobs being created than you know capacity for talent to fulfill those jobs um quickly so it’s a great opportunity for um for anyone to you know upskill themselves and and learn and and get involved and as you say like at any age um and it doesn’t need to to be that you need to be super skilled and you know a blockchain developer to get.
Involved um so my background is not technical it comes from like traditional payments traditional e-commerce but i upskilled myself and i i was passionate so i think you know if you have the interest if you have passion it’s a great moment um and all the companies i know in this sector.
Are hiring um and we are not able to fulfill like all the hiring needs um so i think you know how can we um how can all people like in in this sector really provide skills um more education and tools for women and anyone to get more involved um and we need to act fast like it’s something that we need to do now um because it’s not really happening.
So i think there are a lot of projects and a lot of people you know talking about yes let’s get women but if you look at statistics um it’s still um still really low and i think we need to create company cultures that are diverse um.
For example my co-founders they they always push me and you know they always were very open and creative including inclusive company cultures i think we are kind of like 50 50. um and yeah we need to do that for for every company um not higher by association so you know when you are a company of white.
Males you tend to like hire by association like similar people and we need to understand the value of diversity um not only for like a great culture but it really increases productivity because we have all different ideas different backgrounds and we are stronger when we work together.
And um sandra i just wanted to ask as well we we had a quick look obviously at utrust beforehand we did see you were hiring you mentioned obviously that the space is quite advocally hiring right now um and for those you know that are keen um to get into obviously the crypto space which as we know is continuing to.
Grow you know what would your advice be to them because we are seeing right now obviously there’s there’s huge labor shortages globally um we’re seeing more than ever a lot of people choosing to just go it themselves you know maybe people have made a lot of money from crypto and deciding that you know they want to just not work anymore but.
Actually maybe we should say just go and work in the crypto space um or maybe it’s actually someone that just wants to get into crypto what would your advice be um you know to those people wanting to get into the space itself um it’s a great question because i think also the the way to hire.
Is changing completely in crypto blockchain uh web3 however we want to call it um so we personally hired someone because they got really involved after an online event they wanted to talk to us or people also like commenting on twitter and following us and sending us messages of things we.
Want to do and bringing ideas or people joining our community on telegram and wanting to help and like create something else in another country so these are the kind of people that we want and that’s why i’m saying like it’s the best time to do it because hiring is changing completely like it’s not a company.
Having a headhunter and you know going to recruit in a traditional way yes there is part of that of course um it’s always gonna be but there is much more attention to you know people spontaneously getting involved in companies um on our community channels on you know on twitter on discord um on telegram.
And and we tend to reply to all of these people as well so why not bringing someone in when they have a great idea and hiring these people directly and i think you know it’s the best time to do that if you want to get involved like don’t be afraid of writing like someone on linkedin directly on twitter.
And 95 percent of cases they will reply to you because we like passionate people and it’s it’s all about passion and energy um and skills at least in my opinion it comes second right because skills you can learn but passion you need to have yeah no some great advice there absolutely um be aware you might get.
Quite a few messages after this podcast sanja from etoro users um so if your inbox is flooded with messages then that’s not our fault okay we just want to say that now um but no look you know if anybody is obviously keen to to get into that space and definitely have a look at you trust um and.
Just from from that that sort of perspective you know just to give a bit more overview of of you trust as a business what would be the main difference between let’s say you trust for business and then you trust for personal use yeah so first of all um we are wallet.
Agnostic right so we do have our own personal wallet and the name is hold whole dot io um but we do not lock people only to use our wallets so we allow anyone to pay with any wallet they have and we will always stay um wallet agnostic um we also have our own wallet um hold and that comes with an exchange.
Banking services gives utilities to our Alama it comes with a visa debit card as well um so you can you know take your crypto and spend in brick and mortar um so that’s for customers um and then for business we really have like two different solutions so one is a payment gateway um and it’s very similar to integrating stripe or.
Paypal so we basically integrate into the e-commerce store of the merchant um either through a plug-in like you know magento woocommerce etc or direct apis um and then it really works as a standard um gateway so in the cloud process of the merchant users can play with crypto um.
And then we have another solution which is called invoicing which we are uh rolling out to everyone right now and that’s more for you know merchants that don’t have any commerce or that you know usually generate invoices to send to their customers they can do it today with um with our solution as well so in this way we.
Really capture like the whole market with you know e-commerce and the gateway with invoicing and then on the personal side with um with a visa debit card that you can use in store as well fantastic i just realized i was uh i was on mute now um you uh you briefly mentioned earlier just about sort of uh your your history so what what brought.
You to where you are uh today you worked at paypal ebay and vodafone what what do you feel sort of you learned there that sort of enabled you to go to you trust create that and and you know really bring that forward yeah i think you know you only understand things when you look backwards and you connect the dots and.
So now you know if i look back i really realize oh it my path makes total sense because um when i graduated from university many years ago um i didn’t really know like even that i could become an entrepreneur because standard education was teaching us something else so i could i thought that i could either be like an investment.
Banker um going consulting or join a large tech corporation and that’s what i did with with vodafone and then ebay and paypal um but i don’t think i would ever you know change anything in my past because what those um 10 years in intact teach me and in large corporation was really like to have the right mindset um to be able to you know lead a team to.
Create processes to have some structure and that really helped me you know when i went into a startup to bring more structure and and to bring a more concrete plan about the future and be able to create a great team um and also i think it made total sense for me to see like how the traditional world works like.
Not only in payments but in terms of like e-commerce how does a marketplace work and technology so that today when i’m speaking to traditional retailers and merchants um i can really understand their needs and their point of view um and that really creates like more bond.
And more more empathy so i think also like as you trust we are more um reputable because of the experience that not only me but other people bring in the company um so i think you know make makes total sense now i see it yeah it’s always easy to look back in.
Hindsight isn’t it to work it out um okay we’ve got uh we got three quick fire questions um although i guess with these questions you could always give a massive long answer it’s just one of those things um as a as a ceo and um you know it’s an important role to have of any company.
Of course but what qualities do you think as a ceo are important to have nice question so probably i think and there was a study done recently about that saying that for ceos um the first you know quality that makes like a successful ceo or an ece.
Level is really like emotional intelligence yeah um and what i mean with that is really the capacity to one like remove your ego out of the equation um and really understand that your role is to like serve something bigger than yourself so it’s not about you um it’s always about how are you going.
To lead the team the company and what can you bring that you know is not selfish is not ego driven um so i think you know my everyday start starts with how can i serve better the company like what can i do today that can improve someone’s job and and they and and motivate others so for sure um emotional intelligence um.
And that really you know allows us not not to go into fights and have quality conversations um i’m really into self-development so i’m kind of like very deep into this and i think also being able to create a culture that um values for making mistakes.
Um and for people to be vulnerable and being able to share their learnings and whenever they have an issue they can they can talk about it so be able to create a culture where we come together we help each other it’s competitive but in a healthy way um and and people people collaborate um and also like.
Someone that is able to understand others understand other point of views um that gives freedom to people um so accountability and freedom like someone that is not of course like going into micromanaging their team but is really there to help them and support them and give them accountability of their own departments and roles there.
Are many other things but i think you know i think you must have a uh a pretty pretty happy work for sandra you might agree with that but i think i think you must have a pretty happy workforce in in italy and in portugal there um so.
Given that given those qualities what does a normal day look like for you then as the ceo oh my god i think like no today no day is the same so i think you know ever the first thing is like every day is different and i think yeah probably one trade that i forgot to say earlier and.
That it’s related to this is like the capacity to wear multiple hats because people think that like a ceo job is very glamorous and you’re always like high level and going into events and speaking with people and promoting the company and yes yes you know there is like part of that as well but it’s not about that like i think um.
A ceo especially in a startup and in a growing startup it’s about solving problems it’s about you know being there for people and and you know reacting reacting to problems quickly and being able to you know unite your team so probably like 85 of my time is spent with my team um.
On multiple projects but it’s really like about how can i create more unity and and support people to work with each other and achieve better results and faster um and of course there is the part about representing the company speaking into events going into podcasts as well uh and that’s what people see on the.
Surface but that’s that’s not my job like that’s a small part of my job the rest is about really solving problems um enabling others and and supporting the company and no private jets no not yet oh yeah no yeah maybe maybe in four years when we go to the next web summit we will we might meet on a.
Private jet who knows maybe um so the last question this is the last one and we just sort of want to wrap it up as a whole um and it’s probably quite a relevant one you know how important is community in the crypto world you mentioned it a lot you know with jobs and everything else how important is.
That i think i’ve never seen a sector like this where community is this important and i heard i think it was yoga monica like talking in a in an event and describing like web 3. so the old like web um two it was about um read and then read.
And write and what three is about own like read right on um so for the first time like anyone can own part of the company like they can buy the token um they can vote on you know decisions being made in a company just because they they own the token and i think that’s like a fundamental shift that.
We’re seeing now in in society in business and and in web3 so there’s never been anything like this before and um a lot of doubts as well there’s a lot of like confusion on those i don’t think we are there yet in like um creating like a killer down model let’s say um but where we are.
Heading uh with the concept of dao’s like you can really understand the concept of importance of community because for the first time you know we are giving the power to people and community to run companies and have their voice heard um and also.
Of course for us it’s about we have our own token um and a lot of investors like a lot of people that are invested in the company we communicate with them um daily um they they can input on decisions for the company um some of them um are starting to work with the company collaborate with the company they want to create their own.
Telegram channels in other countries to promote our mission and vision so i think you know there’s never been a time like this where community has such level of importance so that you know everyone can own a piece of the company and really have a say in everything the company does.
Fantastic yeah i mean community is just essential but in the crypto world it’s it’s massive absolutely uh sandra it’s been an absolute pleasure to have you on uh josh and i massively appreciate it and yeah private jets in lisbon in a few years time sounds good but until then it’s it’s.
Great to do it to do this and for everyone listen at home of course you can head to the etoro academy to find out more podcast guides webinars videos all available but uh cassandra thank you very much thank you you.
CEO of Utrust, Sanja Kon on her vision and mission for the company, what makes a good CEO, what she would tell crypto sceptics and much, much more.
Check out the eToro Academy for more free resources 👉 o
The Digest & Invest Podcast, by eToro’s Sam North and Josh Gilbert on 02/12/2021.
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