INTERVIEW: Randolf Zhao, VP of Operations at BaseFEX

It was always the plan of CoinSyncom to bring you more than one different perspective of the cryptocurrency market. In that spirit, we have started a series of interviews with various cryptocurrency and blockchain industry players. The first that we have to thank for accepting the interview is the VP of operations at BaseFEX, Randolf Zhao.

This is not by chance. Far from it as a matter of fact. Randy has been a part of a rising cryptocurrency derivatives trading platform BaseFEX for some time now. However, recently, his native company became a part of Big.ONE exchange. Consequentially, Mr. Zhao seemed like a perfect figure for us to ask a few questions about the industry, Bitcoin, and also some personal ones (we couldn’t resist).

How did you get into crypto?

I was kind of a serial entrepreneur and had 3 start-up ventures in a roll before I joined the crypto industry. My last venture was in Palo Alto and it was an IoT startup. When I went back to Beijing, there were several offers available to me, and all of them are marketing and sales-related jobs that gear toward global market expansion.

Besides the crypto offer, other interesting offers come from Robotics and AI industry. The Robotics job involves some cool techs too, but its sales cycle is year-long and I really don’t want to dedicate the rest of my youth time to such a long sales cycle. The one in AI has a terrific team and fascinating stories behind the team, but the use case they try to pitch, which, with all due respect, is often the case for many AI startups, was a bit vague and unpractical for me.

Crypto, on the other hand, has validated use cases and user base, as well as ready-to-market offerings, which I deemed ideal to kick off my next global startup venture. So I took the crypto-offer, and am quite happy with my choice so far.

What do you count as your biggest crypto-related success to date?

I managed to establish BaseFEX as a major crypto futures exchange on a global scale. Another one is I doubled the number of international users’ growth of a major China-based exchange, BigONE Exchange, in just a month.

What did you do before getting into blockchain and crypto?

I started my entire career as a brand strategist for a leading brand consulting company. But I easily became bored by our corporate clientele so I soon quit and launched my first startup.

It was based in Zhongguancun (中关村 ) as a fashion crowdfunding platform. The mission of that startup was to democratize the entire fashion-generating mechanism through customer-vetted fashion choices – guess I had faith in the power of decentralization since day one. The startup failed as I underestimated the cost of high-quality, convertible traffic in China, which was and probably still is primarily controlled by a few tech giants including Tencent and Alibaba.

My second venture was in Toronto. I went back there and joined the local hardware startup scene. We were part of the ‘maker movement’, developing and manufacturing microcomputers for hardware creators. I led the team of marketing and sales. In time, we managed to generate quite nice sales results and secured the entrance into major chains and hobbyist stores around the world. But it was discontinued because the entire ‘maker industry’ is very small. It could have been a good business, but not as exciting as what I am looking to pursue because it doesn’t fit my entrepreneurial goal.

The third one is a core-technology-oriented IoT startup and we got into a somehow renowned incubator in the San Franciso Bay area. It was quite a fascinating experience in my life. It has been a privilege to make acquaintance with some of the world’s most brilliant minds there and befriend them. However, we, unfortunately, chose the wrong technological direction that, while being quite clever in its own right, isn’t line with where the entire IoT industry is heading. Therefore, we stopped the venture.

How long have you been a part of BaseFEX?

10 months.

BaseFEX is among the rare exchanges that have a zero-KYC policy. Do you think that, with the ongoing regulation processes, it will be possible to keep that status indefinitely?

KYC, regulated and no-KYC exchanges are three genres of exchanges that serves different user audience. With a lot of cryptocurrency users dearing their privacy above all, the need will always push the exchanges to explore viable options to maintain no-KYC status.

Does BaseFEX have plans to offer more trading products besides perpetuals?

We have dated futures, indexes, and options planned in our development pipeline.

Your trading platform (BaseFEX) has an A+ Mozilla rating, but can the “unhackable” exchange really exist?

No, it doesn’t exist in theory. Yes, it exists in practice. You can exert maximum efforts to make the website secure while the biggest difference resides in the on-site responsiveness of the team.

How liquid is BaseFEX? What is the average daily trading volume?

You can check our daily, real-time trading volume on our front page.

Would BaseFEX ever consider launching its own cryptocurrency and including it as a pivotal point of trading on the platform?

Not as far as I know. But you know how startups work – things can change. Overall we have seen too many trading platforms lose themselves in airdrops while there aren’t many serious traders actually using the platform. That’s not a place we want to be at. If someday we decide to do a native coin, it will aim to only benefit committed users with more fees reduction.

Where do you see BaseFEX at the end of 2020 regarding its overall status compared to the other similar platforms?

I don’t really see the matter from this angle. We only aim to provide better services to serious traders across the globe.

What benefit derivatives trading brings to the cryptocurrency market in general?

It further marks the maturation of the crypto market in general. More sophisticated instruments similar to traditional financial markets.

Why do you think that the long-anticipated Bakkt has such a low daily trading volume compared to, for example, BitMEX?

They (Bakkt) do have a publicity-oriented team that has done terrific work in media coverage and other exposure that powers them with great brand awareness before the launch.

However, you would need an extraordinary sales development team to convince institutional investors first, because no retail trader would deposit 1 BTC on your platform, which is their minimum deposit, just to test the water with no institutional investors onboard there guaranteeing liquidity. That’s just not gonna happen, even when you are famous and backed by some industry giants.

So, I see this as part of a spiral work process and this part is quite hands-on and requires commitment and a certain type of extraordinary talents that I don’t see in their employee list. They have two seemingly high-caliber salespersons, but that’s far from enough.

Overall, in my observation Bakkt has failed to recognize, or unable to fulfill, the necessaries of a successful launch in the market.

Do you actively trade crypto?

I only trade on demo accounts to learn how our users might think. As someone who needs to see things from an overarching, strategic perspective, I need to keep my mind cool and resist the market-related emotions and hypes.

Which people in the industry do you respect most and why?

CZ (Changpeng Zhao, the founder of Binance). He grows things really quickly.

Which projects among the top 50 cryptocurrencies do you acknowledge as highly innovative?

In general, I believe that privacy coins are heading in the right direction and are on the right side of history. However, as a VP in a major crypto exchange, I don’t think I can comment with more details.

Does crypto have the potential to substitute fiat currencies?

It is already happening. Fiat currencies own their legitimacy to governments that citizens trust and rely on.

As technology grows and its influence over the entity of economic activities decreases in proportion, cryptocurrencies that own their legitimacy to the internet and technology themselves naturally become accountable in a world that’s beyond governments’ control.

Would you change something in Bitcoin? If yes, what?

*The answer can be found under the next question.

If you had known Satoshi 10 years ago, what would you tell him before the first Bitcoin block was mined?

I consider these two to be the same question, really.

If Bitcoin supported smart contracts and dApps like Ethereum, there wouldn’t be so much competition between two major cryptos, which, I believe, would lead to a more solid adoption of cryptocurrencies in the general population.

Whereas, from my perspective, right now we have several mainstream coins weakening the overall power of cryptocurrency.

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