Almost a decade ago, the concept of cryptocurrency was really new and no one really understood it, especially in Singapore.
While there were plenty of media coverage on bitcoin back then, what people mostly took away from it was the “Silk Road incident” and that its “prices are rocketing”. Beyond that, people didn’t fathom how it’s being used and what’s the underlying technology behind it.
While the rest of Singapore was in a cloud of confusion about cryptocurrency, Yusho Liu — the co-founder and CEO of Coinhako — took a different stance and saw it as a burgeoning business opportunity that was worth tapping on.
After all, all startup ideas begin with a problem, he mused. Together with his army buddy Gerry Eng, the two started dabbling in bitcoins but the process to buy one was arduous back then.
“There were not many places you can buy from. You had to send papers to like foreign brokers and you have to find overseas exchanges, so I think there could be an opportunity for us. That sort of sparked the whole idea. One month later, we incorporated a company and that was day one of Coin Supermart.”
Founded in 2014, Coin Supermart — which has since rebranded to Coinhako — is now one of Singapore’s leading digital assets wallet service that aims to make buying, selling and trading of cryptocurrencies easy and secure.
“The idea was to provide an avenue for Singaporeans to buy cryptocurrency and back then, it was only bitcoin. So in 2014, we started Coin Supermart (but) it was more like an exchange model.”
“After a while, we realised that the model for SGD doesn’t really work. Maybe it was still too early then.”
From Singapore To Silicon Valley
Shortly after they launched, Coinhako faced a huge business crisis.
The price of Bitcoin had skyrocketed to over US$1,200 in November 2013, but when the infamous Mt. Gox exchange went bankrupt, everything went downhill.
We were affected by the Mt. Gox exchange closure, which was one of the major incidents in the crypto space in 2013 to 2014. We lost some money there, and (were forced) to either raise capital or close shop.
– Yusho Liu, co-founder and CEO of Coinhako
The founders then scrambled to reach out to Singaporean investors to raise some funding, but ended up facing multiple rejections.
Some investors didn’t even bother to reply their email, but mostly, local investors didn’t want to back a cryptocurrency-based company because nobody really had bitcoin back then.
That forced them to “look outside”, particularly in Silicon Valley, which is deemed the epicentre of innovation.
They applied online for Boost VC’s accelerator programme, which was heavily focused on investing in bitcoin companies back then.
We got in with the pitch saying that we are going to be like the ‘Coinbase of Asia’. Adam Draper (founder of Boost VC) himself is the first investor of…