Crypto-enthusiast Sanjay Popli discusses his career in one of the world’s most up-and-coming ﬁnancial sectors.
By Ashima Sethi
Recently, there has been a few technological advancements that have managed to stir up heated debates among ﬁnancial enthusiasts. A hot topic of late is the value of cryptocurrency, where during the beginning of the year, many of us witnessed the meteoric rise and subsequent turbulence of Bitcoin and its price. However, for Sanjay Popli, the volatile yet exciting world of virtual currency goes beyond just curiosity. Currently a Business Development Specialist at ICORA, one of Thailand’s leading cryptocurrency advisory ﬁrms, Sanjay reveals more about the experiences that have led him down this fascinating career path.
Did you always have an interest in cryptocurrency?
Not always! The ﬁrst time I heard about Bitcoin was in 2013 when I read a few articles about its use as a de facto currency for sites on the Dark Web. It wasn’t until 2016 that I noticed how Bitcoin was really gaining traction. At the beginning of 2017, I was still hesitant about the idea, so I spent a lot of time educating myself on the technology behind it, as well as crypto-economics. This led me to make my ﬁrst investment in June of last year.
When did you realise it was something you wanted to pursue professionally?
I had met some people involved in the crypto and blockchain industry, and after speaking to them, I realised that it was a concept I found quite exciting for two reasons. Firstly, the industry is still in its infancy so the future of the digital asset looks bright despite its unpredictability. Secondly, I believe cryptocurrency can be a tool to bring forth more ﬁnancial freedom to the world and this is something I’d like to understand further.
How did you begin your career in cryptocurrency?
My higher education didn’t necessarily direct me to this career path, but the network that I built during my time pursuing an MBA at Thammasat University really helped me, as one of the co-founders of ICORA, Dr. Karndee Leopairote, was one of my lecturers. I used to work in textiles so it was deﬁnitely a challenge to transition into my position at ICORA. However, there were deﬁnitely certain aspects of my previous experience I’ve been able to use to my advantage
What does ICORA do, and what is an ICO exactly?
We are an Initial Coin Oﬀering (ICO) advisory ﬁrm, so we guide companies through the ICO process. An ICO is a new fundraising mechanism done through cryptocurrency that is similar to crowdfunding and uses blockchains to keep transaction records. This is beneﬁcial on a number of levels because most start-ups struggle to generate enough capital. There is often a long and daunting process that ends up with venture capital funds taking away a part of the company’s ownership in exchange for funding. However, the ICO method addresses these challenges by allowing business owners to retain their ownership while still securing the funding required. Now, even public listed companies are interested in launching ICO projects, this is called a reverse ICO.
In addition to consulting, we are also looking to build the cryptocurrency community and to educate people about the various aspects of cryptocurrency. For example, the Thai Fintech Association in collaboration with ICORA, will oﬀ er the ‘Cryptoasset Revolution Course’ from June 12th to August 14th, 2018. This will provide participants with knowledge about investing in crypto-assets and ICOs because we want Thai investors, business owners and professionals to have the chance to learn from local and international experts about the crypto-economy.
Why are businesses now choosing to invest in ICOs?
A lot of businesses are choosing to raise funds through an ICO because of the transparency of the process. However, it is still a common misconception that an ICO is suited for all businesses, as there is huge pressure for the company to perform price-wise. The main beneﬁt for the team who issues the ICO is that they normally take X percent amount of the coin, so if the price goes up signiﬁcantly, they will also beneﬁt ﬁnancially.
As ICOs are a relatively new concept to many, and still have regulatory risk, why should businesses choose to invest with ICORA?
At the moment the Securities and Exchange Commission of Thailand (SEC) is having a blackout period for ICO announcements; however, with public hearings we can expect a full regulation to come out during the end of this month. Everyone is keeping a very close eye on the Thai cryptocurrency community.
Do you believe cryptocurrency is the future?
Yes, I believe there is a lot of potential for blockchain and cryptocurrency as we’re only in the ﬁrst disruption phase, and we still have a few years to go before the mass market adopts the idea. I’m not saying that this will replace traditional ﬁnancial systems, but I think they will be able to coexist and provide solutions that cannot be solved with our current approaches.
What advice can you give someone who wants to begin investing in cryptocurrency?
Expect huge volatility and always do your own due diligence before investing. Another rule is to invest money that you are willing to lose.