Bobby Ong on why he started CoinGecko, building a team in Malaysia, eschewing venture capital and more
CryptoSlate recently had the opportunity to chat with Bobby Ong, the co-founder of CoinGecko.
CryptoSlate recently had the opportunity to chat with Bobby Ong, the co-founder of CoinGecko.
CoinGecko was established in April 2014 and is the largest independent cryptoasset data aggregator in the world.
Bobby is a contributing author in two digital currencies books – Handbook of Digital Currency, 1st Edition and Handbook of Blockchain, Digital Finance, and Inclusion, Volume 1.
He was included in the Forbes 2019 30 Under 30 Asia list and holds a Bachelor of Science in Economics from University College London.
In the interview, we discuss:
- How Bobby got into crypto
- Why he and his co-founder started CoinGecko
- Where their team is located and the pros/cons of that jurisdiction
- CoinGecko’s notable achievements
- Benefits of using CoinGecko over similar platforms
- Biggest challenge of building a coin analytics platform
- Other projects and blockchain developments he is excited about
- Predictions for 2021 and beyond
- Bobby’s most controversial opinion related to crypto
Interview with Bobby Ong, CoinGecko COO & Co-Founder
What is your professional background and how/when did you get into crypto?
I graduated in 2012 from the University of College London with a degree in Economics. I first heard about Bitcoin on Hacker News in 2013. Back then, I was learning how to code so I spent quite a lot of time on tech news boards.
I was really intrigued about this new form of money that a lot of techies were talking about. I decided to read the Bitcoin whitepaper and do as much research as I could. As I learned more about Bitcoin, I found it to be a very interesting piece of technology with huge potential to revolutionize finance. I knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate in a game-changing technology early on and wanted to play a role in the development of this industry.
Tell us about why you decided to start CoinGecko?
Through a chance encounter with my co-founder, TM Lee, we both decided to start CoinGecko in 2014 to better track crypto market data. We started CoinGecko as we wanted a website that tracked crypto market data in a user-friendly manner and we saw that we have the opportunity and expertise to do this well.
Cryptocurrencies were still a niche when we started CoinGecko back in April 2014. We started CoinGecko tracking only 20 coins.
We hold the vision that anything that can be tokenized, will be tokenized. We foresee a future where there will be millions of tokens. CoinGecko was built to track this future and we would like to help users with independent and reliable data to better do cryptocurrency research.
We have definitely come a long way and now track over 6,000 cryptocurrencies. We can’t wait for the future where there will be millions of tokens!
Where is your team located and why did you choose that jurisdiction? What are the pros and cons of working in your jurisdiction?
TM and I are both Malaysians and we wanted to start a tech business in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We took the contrarian approach when starting CoinGecko by making a few decisions that were considered quite radical back then.
With cryptocurrencies being a global phenomenon, we decided early on that we want to build a business that can serve everyone in the world. We decided that building a business to serve only the Malaysian market would be too small given the global opportunity present.
We decided that we would try to build CoinGecko by growing the company as much using our own efforts as possible without any external venture funding. We were inspired by Basecamp’s approach of eschewing venture capital when building tech businesses and wanted to see if we could make this work too. Choosing not raising venture capital allowed us the opportunity to not need to relocate to Silicon Valley, one of the most expensive locations to live in.
Being based in Kuala Lumpur, a relatively low-cost location certainly helped us. We did not require much cash to pay rent or food. We were conservative in hiring people and for the first 4 years of CoinGecko, it was just TM and me running CoinGecko.
Not having venture capital also allowed us to escape the usual 18-24 months venture capital run rate. Back then it was not obvious, but the crypto market cycle lasts longer than that 24 months. Crypto winter season can last upwards of 36 months and we saw that many of the companies that raised venture capital in 2014 slowly closing down by the end of 2016. We were lucky that we did not face any external pressure to spend investors’ cash and we were very prudent with our finances. This allowed us to sit through the bear markets of 2015-2016 and 2018-2019.
What are some of CoinGecko’s notable achievements or milestones?
We are very proud to be able to build CoinGecko to be the leading cryptocurrency data aggregator in the market. Millions of people rely on our data to do their cryptocurrency research and this gives us a lot of satisfaction.
In terms of achievements, we are very proud to be the first crypto data aggregator to pioneer many things in the industry. For example, CoinGecko was the first crypto data aggregator to holistically rank crypto exchanges using our proprietary Trust Score algorithm. This was important to properly rank exchanges as many exchanges were wash trading and manipulating their data.
CoinGecko was also the first crypto data aggregator to pioneer the copy contract address feature that is now a common standard online for various data aggregators.
What are the benefits of using the CoinGecko platform as opposed to other crypto data platforms?
We work hard to ensure that our information and data are unbiased, accurate and comprehensive. Users have access to prices of over 6,000 cryptocurrencies sourced across more than 400 exchanges. Moreover, our API is freely accessible and is used by numerous notable projects such as Trezor and Metamask amongst others.
Our research team also dives deep into the crypto space to deliver valuable insights to our users through our cryptocurrency reports, publications such as our How to DeFi book, as well as our daily newsletters.
What can you tell us about the CoinGecko product roadmap? What upcoming features are you most excited about rolling out?
We are focusing hard on user interface and experience optimization at the moment because we want to provide our users with the best user experience possible. We have many features planned for this year and you will be hearing more about them soon!
What are the biggest challenges of building a coin data platform?
The biggest challenge when it comes to building a crypto data aggregator is data integrity. CoinGecko uses a volume-weighted average price to provide a global price for each cryptocurrency. To do so, we gather and source data from various crypto exchanges API.
New exchanges are created all the time, exchanges API change from time to time, and sometimes exchanges return erroneous data. We have to build our system to handle all these situations so that our data remains unbiased, neutral, reliable, and independent.
What other projects and/or blockchain developments are you most excited about?
I am very excited about developments taking place in DeFi. CoinGecko wrote the world’s first DeFi book titled How to DeFi. Even though the book is less than one year old, so much has taken place since that we now need to write an updated version of the book.
I think we will see huge growth and development in the DeFi space in the coming years. DeFi’s composable nature means that a lot of projects are free to build on top of each other and we will be seeing an explosion of DeFi applications soon.
It won’t surprise me if DeFi takes on a 100x growth from this point onwards as it marches towards mainstream adoption in the coming years.
Do you have any blockchain and/or crypto predictions for 2021 and beyond?
At the end of 2020, I made 8 crypto predictions on Twitter on what I think 2021 will look like.
2020 has zoomed by so quickly and it's time for me to give my predictions on the crypto markets in 2021. So here we go my predictions on what I think will take place next year:
— Bobby Ong (@bobbyong) December 30, 2020
I think 2021 will be a very strong year for Bitcoin as we see more institutions participating. Microstrategy has started the ball rolling by buying over $1 billion worth of bitcoin and I think more large public companies will soon hold bitcoin in their treasury. I am also very optimistic about Ethereum and I think 2021 will finally see a Layer 2 scalability solution achieve mainstream adoption. I think other Layer 1 platforms will find it hard to compete against Ethereum but I will have my eyes on Polkadot and Serum to see if they can gain adoption as they embark on their DeFi journeys too.
What are the biggest obstacles for mainstream adoption of crypto?
I would say the biggest obstacle for crypto mainstream adoption is the usability element. Using decentralized applications is still quite a daunting experience for first-time users. I hope that as we progress further, crypto decentralized apps will become more user friendly and we can then easily onboard more mainstream users.
What is your most controversial opinion relating to blockchain and/or cryptocurrency?
This may sound ironic but not every crypto project should have a token. Each project should invest sufficient time to research and plan for good token utility and tokenomics before simply launching their token. If there is no good use case, then perhaps there isn’t really a need for a token.