Embracing the crypto Wild West: Cryptocompare
Charles Hayter, co-founder of CryptoCompare, describes the world of cryptocurrencies as a “Wild West”. His interactive platform provides users with data, information and a forum to help them capitalise on the emerging crypto space.
CryptoCompare gives users live prices, charting and market analysis from the top global crypto exchanges. It provides information to help people understand the world of cryptocurrencies.
“Cryptocurrencies are a Wild West,” says Hayter. “We are trying to bring clarity and integrity to this emerging ecosystem. We are a one-stop-shop for information, a data aggregator. We try to push out news and information to people. The scope and integrity of our data gives added value.”
Users can also review and read reviews of crypto products. There’s also a forum where users can share their opinions on various issues. “It’s an unbiased place where you can talk about what’s going on,” Hayter says. “People can discuss topics without fear of reprisal. There’s a lot of politics in the cryptosphere, but we sit back from that.”
The company was founded in 2014 and its website went live in July 2015. It employs around 40 people, mostly in London but also in continental Europe. For example, there are 10 employees in Portugal who write content and news.
A disruptive sector
Hayter sees the whole crypto sector as disrupting the status quo. “Our grand vision is that this is a new frontier,” he says. “You have decentralised currencies that aren’t run by nation states. You also have national boundaries coming down. This is a renegotiation of the social contract between the individual and how they form communities. Crypto is about boundaries coming down and better communication between people.”
The cryptospace is also about “the protection of privacy,” Hayter says.
"Bitcoin was born from the cypherpunk dream that privacy is a necessity in the modern age for the security of the individual. It’s about freedom of rights.”
As Hayter notes, the cryptospace moves very quickly. “We have to make sure we do things with integrity, look after our users and maintain our reputation,” he says. “We also have to keep abreast of the wave and the use of latest technologies.” In this way Hayter is seeking to future-proof the business and keep it at the cutting edge.
The CryptoCompare team is also trying to ensure a positive environment for crypto companies. “We try to influence regulators and governments,” Hayter says. “We want them to aid the development of the space. We are part of a few lobby groups on a national and global level.”
Industry: Financial Services
Company size: 11-50 employees
Ownership: Privately held
Maximising technology and sector knowledge
CryptoCompare has applied digital technology in many ways. “We’re cloud based, which keeps our infrastructure and maintenance costs low,” Hayter says. “We are very nimble in where and how we can work.”
Although it doesn’t run its own server farm, CryptoCompare has access to 250 cloud-based servers (on Microsoft Azure). These “reach out” to all the various crypto exchanges. “They then do various calculations and spit out the data,” Hayter says.
As well as technology, the strength of the business also depends on sector knowledge. “It’s about knowing how to actually provide a best price [for a currency],” Hayter says.
"Exchanges go offline then come back online. We have to come up with an overarching, unified price. We’ve been in the industry for four years. We have adapted our overarching indices to take account of all its foibles as it’s grown. Our CryptoCompare best price index is our core offering.”
The growth challenge
Business growth creates its own challenges. “The challenge is making sure there are no ‘blockers’ to your next steps,” Hayter says. “As you scale, things become more complicated. Communication channels become less direct. More people are needed to get things done.
"That’s where implementing best strategies of Industry 4.0 with agile and lean development practices can help. So you don’t feel you are wading through treacle to get things done.”
Finding good people is also a challenge. “That only happens through your network,” Hayter says. “If somebody recommends somebody, nine times out of 10 they are the right person for the job.”
Business goals and sector outlook
Hayter wants CryptoCompare to be the “gateway to cryptocurrency”. He says: “As the cryptocurrency world expands, we want to be the data aggregator. We want to be the central point of trust in the cryptocurrency ecosystem.”
As for the crypto sector, it’s still early days. The sector’s future will depend on how nations and corporations use the technology. “Bitcoin is born of the Wild West and the internet,” Hayter says. “It’s being adopted by various financial institutions that are looking to trade it. Various companies are trying to build financial products that give the traditional investment space access to it. So Bitcoin is moving into the mainstream. The question is how the mainstream uses it and its underlying technology – blockchain.”
"For example, large banks might look to use blockchain to speed up settlement times and cut middle and back office costs. “There’s also potential to use this technology as a new form of national digital currency,” Hayter says. “Some countries are looking at that. Governments will spot opportunities because they can tax it or utilise it to increase GDP and trade. Companies can see that too.”
Another development is the growth of initial coin offerings (ICOs), where companies issue coins to raise funds. It’s a form of unregulated security. “It’s a new form of global funding mechanism,” Hayter says. “It’s got interesting potential. The problem is there are huge issues with accountability. There’s a huge amount of fraud going on.”
It’s possible that regulators could take action to try to control cryptocurrencies and ICOs. But this wouldn’t be easy. “Everything is global now,” Hayter says. “With crypto you have a form of jurisdictional arbitrage. People can hop across from nation to nation. If one nation becomes particularly ‘cold’, another will become particularly ‘warm’.”
For example, large banks might look to use blockchain to speed up settlement times and cut middle and back office costs. “There’s also potential to use this technology as a new form of national digital currency,” Hayter says. “Some countries are looking at that. Governments will spot opportunities because they can tax it or utilise it to increase GDP and trade. Companies can see that too.”
"There needs to be a balanced approach, Hayter believes. “People want to live in a secure country,” he says. “A lot of people want to base their companies in certain countries because it adds to their reputation. Even though they might get a lower tax rate somewhere else.”
Regulation will be a challenge though. “Cryptocurrencies are stateless to all intents and purposes,” he says. “They exist by virtue of the internet being its own realm.”
How warm is the UK towards the crypto world? Hayter thinks there’s been “good engagement”. He says: “The Financial Conduct Authority, Bank of England and HMRC are up to speed. They understand it. Politicians are getting to grips with it.”
However, there are two naturally opposing sides, Hayter suggests. “If you don’t like the technology, you are worried about consumer protection,” he says. “If you are pro the technology, you see the potential behind it to add value to our economy – create more tax revenues and wealth for everybody.”
"High level debates are taking place between these opposing sides. “Where there’s debate, there’s uncertainty,” Hayter says. He would like the government to “give more clarity and help companies that are trying to do the right thing”.
He notes, for example, that companies in the crypto space can struggle to open bank accounts in the UK. He blames rigid bank compliance departments. “If banks hear the words Bitcoin or digital currency, they get anxious,” he says. “It’s easier to say ‘no’ than to look into it and say ‘yes’.”
Hayter would also like the government to help technology companies access talent. The visa process is relatively bureaucratic, he says. “That could be smoothed over. When Brexit happens, we need to keep good people in the country. And we need to keep the channels open so we get more good people to come and work and build businesses in this country.”
"We asked: Away from CryptoCompare, what disruptive tech has most impressed you…
“Deliveroo and the motorbike are two of the best inventions,” Hayter says. “Deliveroo is saving so much time. It’s changing eating habits and the way people stock their fridge.”