One to one with Gatecoin: CEO Aurélien Menant talks to Leaprate about Asia in the digital currency age

All eyes are most certainly on Asia, and not just from within retail FX firms as the Bitcoin industry is following the drive toward Hong Kong and China.

For Gatecoin, a Bitcoin exchange based in Hong Kong which was established six months ago, the strengthening of is management team, announced yesterday, is the latest advancement, encompassing senior industry officials including former BTPrime and Boston Technologies executive George Popescu, an academic an Start Up Mentor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Gatecoin’s gestation period began in June 2013 and the exchange went live in January this year. Now with Mr Popescu on board alongside the former CIO of Newedge and a TechStars Accelerator partner, the company is positioned to take its place among the established Bitcoin industry participants, with the advantage of being firmly rooted in the lucrative Asia Pacific region.

LeapRate today spoke to the company’s co-founder and CEO, Aurelian Menant, himself a former banking executive, with regard to the ethos behind Gatecoin. “My background is in banking, as I used to work at Societe Generale SA (EPA:GLE) in acquisition finance, however before that I was an intern at and before was an intern at JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM) in mergers and acquisitions.”

“I moved from my hometown of Paris to London to join JPMorgan, and then to Hong Kong for Societe Generale, however a revolutionary move was made when I co-founded Gatecoin, representing a move from the traditional banking sector into digital currency.” continued Mr. Menant.

“I was still a junior, but working in finance, so therefore followed quite a common path which went from investment banking, to venture capital, and then entrepreneurship. I was very interested in technology and startups and therefore I had been following Bitcoin closely” said Mr. Menant.

A point of interest is that unlike MtGox, which is Asia’s most notorious Bitcoin exchange, Gatecoin’s entire corporate structure and advisory board comprises seasoned industry professionals from the banking sector and FX technology industry with several decades of provenance, as opposed to MtGox’s elusive, acronym-bearing founder with not only no track record but no identity.

If Bitcoin is going to continue its path toward mainstream recognition and take its integral part in the global financial and technology businesses, sustainability and the correct experience is paramount.

Today, things are somewhat different to two years ago at the time of the demise of MtGox, as Bitcoin exchanges have become recognized on a regulatory level as well as having become an object of desire for very well renowned venture capital firms, in some cases attracting rounds of funding into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

New York’s Coinsetter is regulated, and its founder & CEO Jaron Lukasiewicz is an industry figure in his own right, having discussed Bitcoin technology and its advancements at global FX conferences.

When asked whether Gatecoin views itself as a sort of Asia-based rival to coinsetter and if so, its location and proximity to China combined with its team of experts are likely to be factors which stand it in higher stead, Mr. Aurelian said “We are new on the market so so far we are competing with Quoine, Bitx, Anx and indeed Coinsetter, rather than Bitfinex or Bitstamp,” thus confirming that line of thinking.

Mr. Menant does indeed draw certain similarities between his standing as a Bitcoin exchange entrepreneur with a view to establishing a household name, and Jaron Lukasiewicz, however when asked his perspective on the possibility of selling blockchain technology to providers outside the industry for other purposes such as payment security and banking systems, as discussed at the Bitcoin panel at New York’s FXIC in June by several Bitcoin executives.

On this basis, Mr. Menant stated “Blockchain technology is revolutionary and has a lot of potential for many industries, like banking and accounting. Some exchanges are actually shifting towards that business model, but we prefer sticking to our core business of exchange for the moment.”

Mr. Menant saw a great opportunity in the establishment of the exchange alongside the executive team. “I saw bitcoin becoming increasingly popular and the potential we were seeing in it began to become a reality, so we thought it was a huge opportunity for us considering our background and our knowledge to create a more professional platform.”

“Therefore we started working on it 2.5 years ago, and I left my job 2 years ago to work full time on the project. We managed to get a banking partnership in Europe, so that we are the only Bitcoin exchange to offer client segregated accounts, and we got our Money Service Operator license in Hong Kong, which makes us one of the only regulated exchanges in the world” he said.

“At first, we offered BTCUSD, BTCEUR and BTCHKD, and bringing the company from initial startup to being able to operate as a live entity took about a year and a half” explained Mr. Menant.

“Since then we have been building sales, focusing especially on European and Asian markets, and on business customers, such as payment processors, remitters, BTMs and hedge funds” he said.

“We welcome market makers on the platform since they bring liquidity and tighten the spreads, and have a dedicated market maker program with a specific fee schedule.”

Mr. Menant concluded by explaining the company’s growth aspirations around the Asia Pacific region. “Currently we have Hong Kong, however we are looking toward China, Singapore and other important markets in the region. This is just a matter of finding a banking partner, but we are working on it.”

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