Interview with Aurélien Menant, Co-founder and CEO of GateCoin, a Hong Kong-based regulated digital currency exchange that offers payment infrastructure as a service leveraging the blockchain. GateCoin was founded in 2013, launched in 2015 and has grown to a team of 10 at the time of the interview. Most recently, they were chosen as 1 of 8 participants for the 12-week SuperCharger Accelerator program sponsored by Standard Chartered, Baidu and Tuspark in Hong Kong.
In simple terms, tell us about GateCoin.
Besides our digital currency exchange, that allows people to buy, sell and speculate on digital currencies, we enable financial institutions, payment service providers, international remitters and individuals using our service to transfer money worldwide at cheaper costs and shorter delays.
Who will be using your platform?
Financial institutions, international remitters, payment service providers, but also individuals: more than 30 companies are already using our service and 4,500 individuals.
You recently join the SuperCharger accelerator program, why did you decide to join this accelerator versus others?
Obviously the two main sponsors, Baidu and Standard Chartered, are extremely appealing. But what really made a difference were the different discussions we had with Janos (founder of SuperCharger) and Renu (Managing Director of SuperCharger) that convinced us that SuperCharger was a real accelerator and not a communication tool to promote a given sponsor company like the other accelerators we have seen in HK so far.
Have you taken part in other accelerator programs?
We have been incubated by HKSTP and took part in the NXTec accelerator organised by HKSTP and JPMorgan.
What sets you apart?
Our vision that we inherited from our investment banking background. We strongly believe in digital currencies and blockchain technology, but we do not believe that those technology will replace central banks and banks. On the contrary, from the beginning we have been convinced that we needed financial institutions and regulators to embrace them, and that it was possible, which was not obvious 3 years back. Therefore we have always focused on compliance, hence the fact that we are Money Service Operator licensed, and banking partnerships, instead of working under the radar like most of our competitors.
What should we know about you and your company?
Considering the little funding we have received compared to our US or Asian competitors, we are overperforming: within 12 months from our launch, we already rank #2 in Europe and #1 in HK. Besides, we are integrating with several banks and other financial institutions to offer cheaper and faster remittance solutions using the blockchain.
Recently GateCoin expanded to 8 countries in Africa, how did you go about setting that up?
That is what we call the French connection! Arnaud Ventura, the CEO of Microcred, wanted an innovative and optimal way to process remittances in between Europe, Asia and Africa, so we pitched him our solution.
What are the challenges in setting up in Africa vs other regions?
Unlike the US, Europe or Asia, there is almost nothing in Africa regarding the Blockchain technology and Bitcoin. Our challenge as a first mover will then be to create this market and increase customer awareness as fast as possible.
What do you think about HK startup ecosystem?
It is improving already, but it could only get better 🙂