The world of digital currency has proved to be quite intriguing and ever-evolving. The collapse of Mt. Gox, the Tokyo-based bitcoin exchange, generated general distrust of cryptocurrency. Back then, those associated with it were referred to scam-artists or incompetent. Things, however, are looking a bit different nowadays.
The interest in cryptocurrency recently reached an all time high. Former Goldman Sachs trader and bitFlyer Founder and CEO, Yuzo Kano, has experienced both the ups and downs: “The Mt. Gox incident happened a month after I had founded the company, it was horrible. Things began to change in September 2016 when R3 led a consortium of over 70 of the world’s largest financial institutions to research and develop blockchain database usage. They sparked interest in virtual currency as they began regulating it.”
Critics have referred to digital currency as too risky given its volatility. Kano, on the other hand, believes the situation will stabilize soon: “Volatility is decreasing, and will continue to do so for the next few years – bitcoins are gaining trust,” he explains. “Imagine the stock prices of an established corporation in comparison to a newly founded one, for example. The first mentioned would be much more stable in comparison – in the beginning.”
Further criticism on cryptocurrency is based on what is called the “speculator problem”, wherein speculator investment amps up the price of the currency. “I wouldn’t call it a problem. We see this criticism of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as one-sided,” Kano reflects. “Speculators are simply our customers. We don’t differentiate customers based on how they use the currency.”
Although Kano passionately defends cryptocurrency, he recognises the difficulty of its mass adoption: “Marketing indeed is difficult. The next step is to get large corporations to accept it as a viable method of payment.”
As the spearhead of Japan’s largest bitcoin exchange, Kano is relishing the challenge and has ambitious goals for bitFlyer: “We’re driving two major products, blockchain and bitcoin. We aim to sophisticate blockchain within the next few years, and in regards to bitcoin exchange, we’re looking to expand internationally and establish ourselves as global leaders.”
The future of cryptocurrency is still tentative. But with determined pioneers like Yuzo Kano driving the fintech industry, it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on. At Slush Tokyo, together with Toshio Taki (Co-founder of Money Forward), Yuzo will guide us deeper into the world of blockchain and fintech – first in panel discussion on the main stage and later in Q&A session at Slush Cafe.
Photo by Petri Artturi Asikainen.