Julian, you and your team are taking part in the BBCW with the idea «Relai». What is your project all about?
We are on a mission to empower everyone to invest in Digital Assets. Investing in Crypto Assets is tempting for many people, but the customer journey of Crypto investing today is cumbersome and laborious, for both Crypto-Newcomers as well as Crypto-Experts. The main issues Crypto retail investors face today are: Finding qualitative information about the Crypto market, burdensome registration and KYC/AML verification procedures, wiring and depositing money upfront, laborious and complicated manual trading experience as well as high volatility and inability to correctly time investments.
In trying to solve these issues, we are building a web- and mobile application that allows everybody to learn more about Crypto investing, simulate investment strategies with real data (back testing), and automate recurring investments in Digital Assets in a simple and user-friendly way. The app will provide everything a Crypto retail investor needs out of the palm of one hand, solving the above mentioned issues.
The topic of cryptocurrencies is on everyone’s lips. Accordingly, there are many start-ups establishing themselves in this area – the industry is certainly contested. What do you think, makes your idea unique enough to survive in this environment?
That’s right, there are more than 750 startups and about 3’300 employees working on Crypto and Blockchain projects in the Crypto Valley (Zug/Zurich) alone. The Crypto industry is certainly competitive, but it is also still quite infant. There is still a lot to do, to build, and to experiment. At the same time the ecosystem is growing fast, so I think the pie is big enough for many startups working on different topics, and hopefully even more talent and money will flow into the space so it can keep developing as fast as it does now.
When it comes to competition in our specific use case, ‘making it easy & effortless for retail investors to invest in Digital Assets’, there are some fantastic Swiss companies. They provide the basic Crypto investing services, but not more, in our opinion. What makes us unique, i.e. what differentiates us from them, is our relentless focus on user-friendliness for the retail investor, “the everyday Joe”, people like you and me. We feel like there is currently no good solution out there that covers the whole customer journey of a Crypto investor, be it a novice or an expert, and makes the Crypto investment experience as easy as WhatsApp makes it to communicate with friends, for example. The existing solutions are usually focused on one aspect of the journey. There is no one-stop-shop that solves all the issues a Crypto retail investor might have, out of the palm of one hand. Also, existing solutions are not very user-friendly, people don’t like to use them, they’re not passionate about them, they just use them as a means to an end.
This complexity and lack of user-friendliness even prevents a good amount of people to invest in this new asset class, even though they would like to, as we have found out talking to potential customers. We want to change that and make the user experience in Crypto investing as good as – if not better than – in traditional investing. We are on a mission to empower everyone to invest in Digital Assets.
Your idea requires a lot of technical know-how – where do you get this from? And how did your team even get to know each other?
Yes, technical know-how is obviously key in our project. Specifically, backend / blockchain development and frontend / user experience development. For both of these topics, we have outstanding people with the necessary skills.
Stefaan, our «magician», is a software engineer and has more than 20 years of experience in software architecture and backend development He has worked on some critical internet infrastructure in the 1990ies that are still being used today, that kind of guy. For about 4 years now, he has been involved in a wide range of different Crypto & Blockchain projects, so he perfectly covers the ‚backend / blockchain development’ part of Relai. Adem, our «designer», is a software developer that focuses on frontend and mobile solutions for Blockchain projects. He has identified the big gap of usability in the Blockchain space and helps Crypto & Blockchain apps to become as user-friendly as the nice & shiny smartphone apps that we are used to today. He has years of experience in mobile application and different programming languages. Further, we have Bernd, our «advisor», who has a huge network in the Crypto Valley and beyond, and served as an advisor for many Blockchain projects, the most popular one being the Ethereum Foundation. Last but not least, we managed to win Ivana, our «marketer», who is a private banker with experience in customer advisory and online marketing. I am on the team as well, my name is Julian, the «visionary», I had the idea for Relai and have a background in business, banking and management consulting.
We got to know each other on different occasions of Relai’s entrepreneurial journey, step by step. I had the idea when I was looking for this solution, because I wanted to make recurring investments in Crypto Assets after reading about Dollar Cost Averaging and how well it worked with Crypto. I hated to do it all manually though, so I was looking for an easy way to automate recurring investments, but there was none, so I asked the question in the Bitcoin Association Telegram chat. Nobody knew of a solution like this, but I felt a lot of interest for it, and a couple of people wrote me back, amongst them also Bernd (now a co-founder). He motivated me to pursue the project and introduced me to Stefaan (also a co-founder). On our ongoing journey, occasionally we got to know Adem and Ivana, who are also part of the team now.
If I understand it correctly, your app should not only enable customers to automate their investments, but also provide general information about cryptocurrencies. What do you aim for with this strategy?
Exactly, so the initial problem we wanted to solve with Relai was to enable automated recurring Crypto investments. Myself and some other people I know were looking for an easy way to invest a small amount of their income, let’s say 100 CHF, in Bitcoin every month. But there was no such tool around, so we decided to build one. With our app, everybody will be able to invest amounts as small as 10 CHF per day, week, or month, for a fee as little as 1%.
When talking to potential customers, which we were strongly encouraged to do by our BBCW coach Lars Diener-Kimmich, we quickly noticed that this is not the only problem our target group has, they’re customer journey started way earlier. Crypto retail investors were telling us that they struggle with many things, beginning with finding qualitative information about the Crypto market. So we decided to start our solution where our customer’s problem starts, which is information and education. With this strategy, we hope to be able to pick the customers up when they experience the first pain, and help them to overcome this issue. Once the customer is happy with our information, education and simulation services, which we all provide for free, we hope they will decide to invest with us.
You already took part in some workshops and you are probably busy writing the business plan. How do you progress? Do the inputs of the coaching and workshops help?
We can’t participate at as many workshops as we’d like to, unfortunately, but the ones we attended were very helpful indeed. We have got great inputs on how a business plan should be properly structured, as well as others on legal topics and online marketing. We also have a very fruitful coaching relationship with Lars, he challenges our project and makes us focus on a lean and customer oriented approach, which helps us a lot in prioritizing our work.
In the meantime, we have finished our business plan. Even though I probably wouldn’t have written one if it wasn’t a requirement for the BBCW, I think it was a good exercise to really go through all the sections and formulate the problem, the solution, the market opportunity etc. in a structured way. The document now serves as our basis for other applications where we can use the same content.