The Big Interview

Q&A: Gabrielius Bilkštys, Chief Business Development Officer, Mistertango

“The crypto market is a bit like the Wild West. There isn’t structure, and, with almost no rules, many investors will continue to associate cryptocurrencies with high amounts of risk”

Coin Rivet: Tell us about yourself.

GB: I’ve been working in the IT and financial services industry for just over six years. Prior to joining Mistertango in 2017, I was the Business Manager at Fidexperta, the most well-known independent tax consultancy in Lithuania. During my time at Fidexperta, I was also a board member at an IT services company, Pralo and CEO of Neurontools, an organisation that develops biofeedback recorders.

As Chief Business Development Officer for Mistertango, my role is centred on defining our commercial strategy as well as building and maintaining strong relationships with our customers, as we strive to achieve wider acceptance of the crypto industry.

Coin Rivet: What attracted you to Mistertango?

GB: I’ve been interested in cryptocurrency since its inception, tracking its ascension from a nascent industry, now to one that’s approaching maturity. But some of the biggest issues still need to be overcome.

While the market has grown exponentially, major scandals have brought the sector’s credibility into question. It is seen by many – unfairly – as the sole preserve of criminals, with legitimate businesses that rely on crypto struggling to make their voices heard. This fear and uncertainty has led to the introduction of legislation that aims to stamp out criminality, even if this comes at the cost of strangling the market.

Banks across the world are refusing to handle cryptocurrency-related transactions. This leaves legitimate crypto businesses – exchanges and ICO companies – unable to function, allowing other less legitimate players to fill the void. Mistertango stood out to me as the only company truly making headway in solving the biggest hurdle facing the crypto industry right now.

It’s the first business to allow individuals and businesses to simply, quickly and securely facilitate and fund cryptocurrency activities using fiat currency. There’s no other company offering crypto-focused businesses a bridge between the crypto and traditional worlds. For many crypto traders and crypto-related businesses, such as exchanges and ICO companies, a regulated current account is something that has so far been out of their reach.

Coin Rivet: You recently commented that “the crypto exchange industry is crying out for regulation. Uncertainty is the biggest fear, and regulation is critical to provide the stability we need”. What brought you to this conclusion?

GB: We ran a survey of our customers which found that, contrary to popular perception, 88% of crypto exchanges want industry regulation and believe the end result will be a safer market. A further 95% believe regulation is needed for the industry to mature with 30% fearing a major market crash and sudden devaluation of assets.

To date, there’s still no regulatory consensus across the cryptocurrency industry, with each country taking a different stance towards this emerging technology. Instability is what those within this community fear most as market volatility means it’s virtually impossible for crypto firms to land on a sound business plan. Exchanges, ICO companies and traders alike are looking to regulation to provide the stability this industry so badly needs.

It’s going to be a tricky line for the regulators to tread. For cryptocurrency to achieve the scale and ubiquity possessed by fiat currency, it needs cohesive, considered and comprehensive regulation. However, this can go too far. Looking at China and India, for example, the regulatory environment has made it so almost all crypto related activity is banned. Regulators must be careful not to regulate these businesses out of existence especially as these companies want to be a part of the system, not outside it.

If regulation is implemented thoughtfully, it will be a catalyst to establish legitimacy, grow and ensure sustainable and ethical practices across the crypto industry.

Coin Rivet: Unfortunately, as you point out, there is currently no regulatory consensus – worldwide or otherwise. Do you see this changing in the near future?

GB: Despite an industry-wide need and desire for a consensus on regulation, I don’t think we’ll see it just yet. Although it’s growing at an incredible rate, cryptocurrency is still misunderstood, and each country has a different approach to governance. For example, in Estonia, crypto exchanges require licences while, in Lithuania, the central bank requires the segregation of financial services and crypto services.

As central banks across the world become increasingly concerned with crypto activity, we’re likely to see even further variation and a number of new models springing up over time as understanding of the industry continues to build and develop.

There is likely to be a lot of testing the water over the next few years, as regulatory bodies experiment with what may or may not prove successful. Take South Korea, for example, where the Korean National Assembly has issued a proposal to lift the ICO ban which it only introduced in September last year.

Coin Rivet: Some newly emerging crypto exchanges have been accused of thriving based on fake numbers and malpractices. How do you respond to this and do you agree that it could have a significantly negative impact on the long-term growth of the crypto market?

GB: If anything, I think this further reinforces the point that the industry is in desperate need of regulation. With no firm regulatory consensus, then instability is inevitable. Regulating crypto exchanges should closely follow the way we approach the world’s stock markets. Better implementation of KYC (know your customer) and AML (anti-money laundering) requirements, would start to significantly reduce malpractices across the industry.

As it stands, the crypto market is a bit like the Wild West. There isn’t structure, and, with almost no rules, many investors will continue to associate cryptocurrencies with high amounts of risk. What I am sure of though, is that in the long-term, we will witness considerable market growth once there is mutual trust achieved between investors and crypto-exchanges. Regulation will be the catalyst that drives that change.

Coin Rivet: What are the other key challenges and opportunities for crypto exchanges moving forward?

GB: Credibility is a big challenge for crypto exchanges going forward. Question marks still exist over the legitimacy of crypto-related activities. To tackle this, crypto companies need to be subject to governance and oversight, as well as demonstrate stringent compliance with KYC and AML requirements, in order to build the legitimacy necessary to reassure users, ensure business longevity, and secure fair treatment from regulators. Stronger credibility will also mean that crypto companies and their customers can start to conduct business free from the fear of unwarranted sanctions or the association with (or exposure to) criminality.

Protecting innovation is another big challenge. As well as a market for speculation, the crypto market is one where small, innovative companies go to access funding they cannot acquire elsewhere. This innovation, in areas often unrelated to cryptocurrencies, is under threat, along with the ecosystem which has grown to support it. For companies to innovate they will need access to funding, which is not always available from banks or VCs. A properly conducted ICO allows this though and is important if the process of safeguarding innovation is to be fostered.

Arguably, the biggest opportunity alongside proper regulation, that will see the market prosper, is greater unity across the industry. The markets are fragmented – between crypto and formal financial markets, as well as within the crypto market itself. The maturity of the market will rely on connecting the formal financial system and the cryptocurrency market. These disparate parties need to build trust, to operate free from questionable practices and be transparent to regulators.

Coin Rivet: Where would you like Mistertango to be in a year from now?

GB: Our growth goals for the next year are ambitious and I’m pleased to say we’re on track to achieve these. At Mistertango, we’re fast developing partnerships with a view to building a network of the largest and most successful players in the crypto market.

We’ve already partnered with some of the leading exchanges in the crypto world: CEX.IO, itbit, Coingate and Gatecoin. Most recently, our network was joined by another of the largest crypto-exchanges, EXMO. The partnership enabled the company to make Single Euro Payment Area Transfers (SEPA) to achieve faster payments for its customers.

The great thing for Mistertango is that many traders are beginning to recognise our technology as a safe and fast way to exchange and receive funds across different platforms. In recent months, our customers have become our advocates, spreading the news of our business to their partners and colleagues.

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