The Big Interview

Q&A: Liza Aizupiete, ex MD of Globitex

Recently ousted from Globitex, the global Bitcoin exchange which she co-founded, Liza Aizupiete gives Coin Rivet her side of the story and discusses what comes next

Coin Rivet: What drove you to develop Globitex?

Liza Aizupiete: The short answer is Bitcoin. The first time I heard about it was back in 2012. Then together with a teammate and business partners, we visited some of the first conferences on Bitcoin in London. Purely out of curiosity.

Back then, we were managing two hedge funds with proprietary trading strategies primarily in commodities. I was used to large trade-related conference events with thousands of attendants. Here, the rooms were sparsely filled with gold bugs, libertarians and some techies. All fascinated by the genius invention. Although, Bitcoin is not exactly an invention. It uses technology that had existed for a long time, namely encryption, private, public key management, internet protocol, etc. It is rather a smart combination of modern technology and human psychology.

It took me over a year to actually start making plans. As a non-technical person, I needed time to settle my mind on various security and business issues. Then with my colleagues, we made out concrete plans to build an institutional grade exchange with regulatory backing, which was missing from the scene back then.

For me, with my libertarian penchants, Bitcoin resonated with me as a perfect contender for a peaceful alternative to the existing fiat monetary system. Digging up my old presentations and pitch-books to VC investors, I realise that it had been my mission from the very early days to develop a professional marketplace, where Bitcoin as an alternative monetary unit meets the reality – other currencies and ultimately commodities.

Therefore, the drive to develop Globitex came out of my personal fascination with money, and how money works, combined with our previous experience as traders in commodities. Most importantly, it took a team of highly skilled and talented individuals to actually build Globitex, as a technologically advanced and regulatory secure, open order book marketplace, with tall plans to list commodities for cryptocurrencies.

Coin Rivet: Why did you decide to write an open letter about what happened at Globitex?

LA: Following the biggest deceit I have ever experienced professionally, friends and acquaintances and many of the over 4,000 contributors to Globitex GBX ICO were approaching me with a perfectly natural question: “Liza, what happened to your company? Why did you step down from your own creation?”

After a couple of tormenting months of coming to terms with the new reality, I decided to share my story to all those who asked and to those might ask down the line. Without naming any names, we as a team decided it would be a good lesson to learn from.

By publishing an open letter, we wanted to give a heads up to both the startups and the venture capitalists. On the one hand for startups, to be careful and never give up control of your created company, trust doesn’t always work. On the other hand for venture capitalists, we want to stress that it is unacceptable to take companies away from their creators.

Coin Rivet: If you could go back to the beginning with Globitex, what would you do differently?

LA: I would ensure that the venture capital does not become vulture capital. Despite having delays on our initial milestones, we should never have trusted the financial investors outright as we do within our team.

When we accepted the additional financing needed to complete the product, we would not give up, even temporarily, the strict rights to a majority shareholding of our company. If trust works for me and my team, with whom we have worked for ten years straight, then on-boarding inexperienced and risk-averse venture capital can be detrimental.

Coin Rivet: What were the highlights and biggest challenges?

LA: The biggest challenges were to estimate the time and to also obtain the resources needed to establish a technologically advanced and regulated crypto business that is able to comfortably compete on a global level. It was also these challenges, which actually turned out to be the biggest highlights.

Working together with my team, all passionate about our ideas, building towards one goal, is extremely rewarding. Planning and forging relationships with partners and service providers. Developing a useful business that fills the need for a specific purpose. Doing good for the whole ecosystem that we believe in. These are the rewarding moments of a dedicated team, building a product.

Coin Rivet: You remain involved with Globitex. What are your hopes for the company?

LA: I remain involved in the company as a “guard dog”. We sat down with my team and decided that this was the least I could do for the community and ourselves. As minority shareholders, we could ensure that I stay on the supervisory board, which is somewhat similar to being a non-executive director,as long as it is possible. I am the most unloved board member, always questioning expenses and demanding deliverables.

My main task is to oversee that the expenditures are geared towards our roadmap implementation, no less. My hopes, therefore, are that the new management is capable enough to deliver on the promises made to the public within the roadmap. If they do well, we all benefit, both the contributors as well as equity shareholders.

Blockchain detractors, ICOs and what lies ahead

Coin Rivet: Critics of blockchain technology argue that it is nebulous technology. What’s your response?

LA: Perhaps critics thought the same about the internet in the 80s.

Coin Rivet: Where do you stand on the controversial ICOs space?

LA: I am in full favour of the new ICO phenomenon. It has truly democratised access to investment for everyone. At the same time, it has opened up opportunities for various companies and startups to raise capital and bring new and exciting ideas to life. ICOs or ITOs are a tool for going to the capital market. This space will inevitably become more restrictive, as the regulators are looking to “protect” investors.

However, it is my hope that this space will remain accessible. My hopes are that the regulator concentrates more on bringing order to this space, by allowing the innovation to thrive and weeding out the bad actors, who actually commit any real crimes. Collecting crypto funds for selling services or ideas should remain possible through ICO platforms. After all, ICOs are the first serious use case for cryptocurrencies in real life application.

Coin Rivet: You are working on a new venture with your team from Globitex. Are you able to give any details on this?

LA: As you know, it is not only me who was let down, it was the whole founding team. It is however much more productive to continue to do what we do best, and that is to build than to linger in unattainable wishes for a different outcome. Therefore, we are fully invested in creating useful products within the space.

Our next project will consist of various useful tools and ultimately a full scope service that we believe this industry still needs. One of them will be fully open-source and available to everyone. This will be in line with the slogan “be your own bank”.

Other is a commercial solution for firms looking to raise crypto funds. Learning from our success as well as our mistakes, we have developed a fully AML/KYC compliant ICO assistant that will cater to companies and start-ups looking to raise funds via ICO. We provide the full technical solution to collect and manage cryptocurrencies; we ensure contributor whitelisting with live ID verification and source of funds verification, thus allowing the firms to access banking partners and related services. This tool also includes smart contact creation and EIP20 token distribution.

Meanwhile, we are working on a product that will give a regulated and safe space for all this innovation happening around us. This, however, is something still in the making.

Suffice to say, we feel the need to give back to the community that supported me and the whole founding team of Globitex. When the final product is ready, we have decided that we will give the original Globitex GBX contributors a participation in the new project, either in the form of tokens or another legally acceptable form. And this is only for their support, no investment.

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