The Big Interview

TrakInvest’s Bobby Bhatia: The headwinds for crypto are strong

The main blockchain challenge remains figuring out the practical applications and use cases, Bobby Bhatia, CEO and Founder of TrakInvest tells Coin Rivet

Coin Rivet: Tell us about TrakInvest.

Bobby Bhatia: TrakInvest is the world’s first virtual social trading platform for equities and cryptocurrencies powered by an AI engine. With 100,000+users operating across Asia, it was launched in 2014 with the aim to create a peer-to-peer learning ecosystem.

The company provides EdTech and FinTech solutions and works with governments, universities and corporates. Users can sign up at www.trakinvest.com and trade in nine international stock exchanges and crypto with virtual money to build winning portfolios. Top performers get ranked on the leaderboard and can be followed by the learners for trade insights.

Our EdTech offerings include certification programmes that are practical led and job-linked where users prove performance on the platform to earn a certificate and win jobs. Top performers get recognised as they rank high on the leaderboard and move on to be higher level players. As players increase in level and ranks, they get paid for sharing their trading insights.

The FinTech offerings include partnerships with large banks across Asia for providing the TrakInvest white-labelled platform for education or customer acquisition purposes. Siam Commercial Bank, the largest bank in Thailand, is one of our notable partners.

Coin Rivet: You recently launched an AI-powered crypto price estimation tool. Given the recent ‘crash’ in the Bitcoin price, could AI technology have been able to predict this?

BB: Yes, the AI technology that powers the crypto tool of TrakInvest could have predicted this recent Bitcoin ‘crash’. The AI-powered crypto price estimation tool gathers and analyses social signals across the web in the form of both structured and unstructured data to estimate accurate crypto price points within the next hour, day, week and a month.

It’s a self-learning tool that applies natural language processing algorithms to unstructured sentiment across the social media. It captures all the social signals related to each of the top cryptocurrencies and uses that to estimate the price range of cryptocurrency in the near future.

Unlike other price estimation tools developed till now, which are based on pattern recognition, the Trakinvest tool is constantly gathering and analysing unstructured data in addition to structured data. As more time passes by, the estimates get more and more precise and accurate.

Coin Rivet: You’re launching the TrakCrypto Show this month. Could you tell us a bit more about this?

BB: The TrakCrypto Show is a digital reality show for crypto enthusiasts. Crypto players join the competition and are provided with $100,000 in virtual cash to trade in the top 100 cryptocurrencies. Players trade and build portfolios that get ranked on a leaderboard. Top players get recognised and rewarded with job opportunities and sponsored cryptocurrency prizes.

There are $100,000 of prizes in sponsored cryptos to be won. Players can join on www.trakcrypto.com. Each week, an episode detailing the key top players strategies is aired on the YouTube channel – The TrakInvest Show.

Our key objective here was to provide a risk-free simulated platform and ecosystem to connect crypto enthusiasts by providing access to the real cryptos and real prices with virtual money. It’s an educational initiative that aims to connect the viewers and the participants to the millions of crypto enthusiasts across the world.

Coin Rivet: You say that you want to bring cryptocurrency to the masses. Where would you say the crypto space is right now in terms of breaking into the mainstream?

BB: The cryptocurrency space is evolving right now. It started out as an innovative technology that attracted a majority of the tech enthusiasts who could understand the underlying fundamentals. With developers trying to build applications, this was restricted to mostly the IT crowd for a large number of years. Bitcoin has been around for nine years now.

As a value started getting attached to the underlying token, it attracted many small time traders and investors who began making gains on the volatility of the market movements. In more recent times, 2017 created immense hype as all the tokens touched record high valuations and many young crypto investors turned millionaires overnight.

This caught the attention of major global banks like J.P Morgan that are now exploring ways of tapping this as a revenue source. Many legacy businesses across healthcare, real estate, telecom and BFSI have started evaluating the use cases of this technology to solve many common industry problems.

At the current stage, the crypto industry has invited the attention of many private funds and institutional investors that had earlier dismissed this as a fad. Hence, the crowdsourcing model on which this industry was initially built will now evolve to attract large institutional money. However, before large institutional players can put in money, the blockchain technology will have to prove its practical applications and use cases for real world businesses.

Coin Rivet: How do you respond to those who dismiss the blockchain/crypto space as all hype, no substance?

BB: The technologies such as blockchain and Hashgraph (the next best to blockchain) certainly show strong promise as I believe the underlying fundamentals are innovative. Yet the main challenge remains figuring out the practical applications and use cases.

The benefits of blockchain are inevitable, it is just a matter of time as governments and corporates across the world figure out the best applications and developers build businesses that make life much easier.

In the early days of the internet, it was only available to a select few like the government or the army before it became mainstream following a similar cycle of evolution. As transaction speed improves, the technology will find its way in to more mainstream businesses.

Coin Rivet: The FinTech commentator, Chris Skinner, recently told Coin Rivet that Bitcoin won’t succeed “because it wasn’t designed for the scale and needs of global currency”. However, Ethereum has a greater chance of success as it is future-proofed. How would you respond to that?

BB: Both are top cryptocurrencies with a majority of the crypto market share and are likely to survive. Bitcoin has the first mover advantage. Ethereum has already seen a lot of practical applications due to its smart contracts feature that allows users to execute a certain promise if the underlying terms and conditions are met.

Developers across the world are building applications on these and governments are looking at practical applications for mass scale government projects. In multiple interviews, VitalikButerin (Ethereum CEO and Co-founder) talks about the steps being taken to increase the transaction speed of the Ethereum network.

Countries such as Switzerland have already developed regulations across cryptocurrencies and have started accepting it as a legitimate cryptocurrency. Many other countries are likely to follow soon. China has a large number of mining farms that are dedicated to the mining of cryptos.

In summary, I believe the ecosystem around both these coins is extremely strong and it’s highly difficult for both of them to not have a future.

Coin Rivet: What are your predictions for the crypto market in the rest of 2018?

BB: We are nearing the end of 2018 and it’s unlikely the crypto markets will show an upswing this year, after the extreme fall that they have witnessed from the highs of 2017. However, as the industry evolves from a crowdsourced, crowdfunded model to a more private investor one, the returns should kick in.

Besides the returns, the industry itself is likely to develop stronger regulations and laws that will make it much safer for investors to participate. Demand for developers that can build applications on blockchain is likely to rise, creating a need for education and courses in this technology. Those with IT and tech backgrounds are likely to be in much higher demand.

Unstable governments and currencies across the world have seen more of the local population buying cryptocurrencies as they seem a much safer bet than the government-backed currency. This leads to a use case of the token being accepted as a mode of payment and currency in those regions.

Overall, the headwinds for crypto are strong with many markets and populations already accepting cryptocurrency and the underlying technology.

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