INTERVIEW: Jernej Vrčko, CEO at PalmaBot

It is always interesting to hear what people who are coming from smaller and remote markets think of the industry. Their view, as well as the experience of working against the current, is always something to admire. Slovenia definitely can’t match the likes of Switzerland or France regarding the market opportunities. However, there are still those who succeed despite all odds.

In my opinion, one such person is Jernej Vrčko along with his colleagues from the PalmaBot project.

At the moment, PalmaBot is an algorithm that allows traders to seamlessly transact between exchanges, place trades, do arbitrage and many more things from the comfort of their Telegram App interface. However, it holds much greater potential. That is why we invited PalmaBot’s CEO, Jernej Vrčko to have a nice little chat and see what have they been up to lately.

Hello, Jernej! We are delighted to have you for the interview. Our first question is the one we ask everybody and it may already be boring, but still, we have to ask it. How did you get into crypto in the first place?

I knew about Bitcoin since my late computer science student years (2011), but there were many innovations, so it was actually hard to pick the ones that were (later) successful, for example Bitcoin.

As a matter of fact, before I recognized crypto, I, along with a friend of mine, wanted to do “Online P2P Insurance” (2014), but unfortunately ended up unsuccessful only months before Ethereum was launched.

I already know the story, but for all our readers, how did you guys end up developing PalmaBot?

That was in 2017 as I wanted to leave the startup scenery i was a part of since 2010. However, I decided to go to one last event because there was a co-founder of Iconomy explaining their (un)success.

There I’ve met my old friend Janez Kostanjšek, now the CTO of PalmaBot. I remember it was just weeks before that event, as I was going through my old files saying to myself: “It is enough of this uncertainty, but with Janez, I would certainly go into the last adventure…” And a couple of days later, as we met, we embarked upon the advanture we are still sailing through.

While it is a bit special, Palma is still a trading bot. However, it is much more. How would you define it as more than a product?

Actually it is a protocol. I will use a phrase that my friend and a business partner frequently uses: “What you guys did is internet 4.0.”

This point we’ve reached is, actually, the end of the story where, via PalmaBot, it is possible to do everything as it is possible to do via web browser. However, through PalmaBot, a user doesn’t have to know all these technical things like “2FA”, “Register account”, “secure browsing”, etc. All that user has to know is a natural language.

How many people were involved in the making of the product?

3 co-founders – Gregor (COO), Janez (CTO) and me (CEO).

Will PalmaBot ever support derivatives trading?

Sure, anything users may eventually want. We can support anything, not just within the sphere of trading.

It is interesting that Palma partnered up with the Blockchain Institut and FCBS. Please, tell us more about that.

The core business of all crypto-related Institutes is privacy and security-related matters and R&D related to this.

What PalmaBot has built-in is complete privacy and security as it is a Zero-Data-App. This means that it does not possess any user’s data (API keys, personal data, …). We did this without even using blockchain technologies (yet) because of our “do not use something just because it is popular” philosophy.

Exactly this is why we quickly became interesting as a subject of research for many organizations. Plus, we started at the institute as well, where we conduct research on the fields of innovative technologies and business models and their impact on our lifestyle. Yes, we still do it.

Jernej Vrčko, CEO at PalmaBot

In your experience, does it take more effort (and funds) to make a bot or promote the product?

I would say that this depends on the industry’s maturity. The more mature the industry is, the more you need to promote the product and the fewer resources you need for the development. 

What do you do to promote PalmaBot?

We decided to go with the lean startup strategy:

1.) Build the core community – very trusted users, usually around 100 (this was a success)

2.) Connect with partners to get wider users to reach and launch leverage for organic growth, e.g. invite a friend and we will unlock all exchanges forever, which is our next planned marketing move (Still a work in progress)

3.) (If needed) scale with payable ads

Slovenia is, undoubtedly, the leader in the region when blockchain technology is concerned. What do you think are the reasons for that?

Nejc Kodrič and Damjan Merlak. Or to say it in other words, Bitstamp. Plus, a strong startup culture. 

From the tech point of view, and in your opinion, which cryptocurrency holds the most potential to become the most efficient means of payment?

For now, it looks like Binance coin (BNB) is the one as it has the biggest number of transactions per second possible, if I remember correctly. Still, I would like to point out a couple of questions that might open some other perspectives regarding payments:

1.) What will happen if all countries digitalize their currencies and they become usable globally?

2.) What if (due to blockchain and other trustless environments) payments will no longer be needed?

Is Bitcoin’s tech becoming obsolete?

I would like to be very specific here. First, we need to clear out what “Bitcoin’s tech” means. Here, I would like to address 2 technologies; mining and the blockchain. 

First, I would like to clarify why we can say these 2 technologies are Bitcoin’s.

One reason is that they became widely known with Bitcoin. The second fact is that, with Bitcoin, other implementations occurred. Not just in other cryptocurrencies but across other industries as well (that goes for blockchain especially).

I have to add that, while not in such a form/use, both technologies existed decades before Bitcoin. Blockchain was used before 2010, even in industry, but for other reasons. For example, to be able to identify which digital document is the original.

On the other hand, mining, in its essence, actually is cryptography that was very well used since medieval times in analog forms and later became widely used withing secure https internet protocols.

Now, it is obvious that Bitcoin’s tech can not become obsolete. I would rather say it will be used in other, improved and optimized forms and ways.

Would you describe yourself as a trader or investor?

This is, actually, a never-ending debate in the financial world.

The thing here is that, in “the old financial days”, people did not have direct access to their assets. Therefore, what was going on in those days was that investors gave their money to brokers and communicated with traders that actually did the trades. 50 years ago, it looked something like screaming buy/sell in front of the trading desk, right?

However, today, as we all know, since forex and later crypto brought trading to our homes the limit between a trader and investor is not so clear anymore. I consider myself to be both.

Where do you see the price of BTC at the end of 2020?

We will see a significant price jump in May. However, that will be a peak of the year, I believe. Moreover, we should not underestimate the influence of black swans like Coronavirus (COVID-19). It is quite obviously how it’s shaking the planet’s economy.

Therefore, let’s set up diff signals in Palma and not miss a thing. (Laughs)

In the end, that awesome question we ask all our interviewees. If you had known Satoshi back in the day before he launched Bitcoin, what would you tell him if you had the chance?

If I would know Satoshi back then, I would definitely invite him for a beer. (Laughs)

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