🔥Crypto Fireside #16— Interviews with crypto people.
🔥Hello! Who are you, and what do you do?
SS: Hi Andrei, thanks for having me. I’m Shane Stevenson, CEO, and founder of Cointree, a digital currency exchange in Melbourne, Australia. We launched seven years ago to make cryptocurrency as easy as possible for everyone, experienced or not.
It was a very natural fit for me, as I’m a software engineer by trade. When I heard about Bitcoin and explored the idea, it blew my mind. It was only after looking into it and truly understanding the power of the technology that I really saw its potential.
From there, I knew I wanted to make Bitcoin accessible for everyone, including people who had never traded before or had just heard about it. Back in 2013, we were only focused on Bitcoin; now, there are hundreds of crypto projects for people to invest in.
With millions of Australians buying cryptocurrency, we’re focused on providing a platform that makes it easy for people to access the best projects and store their cryptocurrencies securely.
🔥What’s your backstory, and how did Cointree come about?
SS: As I mentioned, I was a software engineer before I founded Cointree. The software has always been a passion of mine, and I love creating great user experiences for people. Building a cryptocurrency exchange allowed me to combine both of these skills, not to mention, I knew it was a great thing to do for several reasons.
Even for software engineers like me, cryptocurrency can be an intimidating and scary topic, so I understand how it could be especially confronting for anyone without a technology background.
Additionally, much of its appeal comes from the fact that cryptocurrency is decentralized, but that also means you can make irreversible mistakes if you don’t know what you’re doing.
I wanted to help people interact with cryptocurrency safely and securely.
🔥Describe the process of launching Cointree.
SS: I first heard about Bitcoin back in 2010, but I didn’t take too much notice of it. I wish I had, but it was mostly an interesting discussion amongst geeky communities back then, not a serious investment opportunity.
When I read Bitcoin’s whitepaper, I was blown away by the concept of a completely peer-to-peer trustless system. It’s quite a short paper, so I encourage everyone to read it. Now everyone can see that Bitcoin has such a positive future. Just listen to how Amazon, Visa, Mastercard, and the big banks are talking about it.
In 2013, I started Cointree as a side project while I worked full-time. I wasn’t focused on making money, but instead, I wanted to make Bitcoin easy and accessible for everyone.
Then in 2017, our exchange saw a lot more interest than we expected. That was when I seriously started building the business, initially bringing on a COO and creating a support team.
Obviously, that mass awareness in 2017 led to a massive spike in the price, ultimately leading to a crash. We saw a lot of people looking for a quick win rather than looking at the fundamentals. That’s when we decided to add more educational material to our platform, adding information and developing our learning hub.
🔥Take us through the process of what it is that you do day-to-day.
SS: I’m a man of routine. I’ve set up smart lights to wake me up at 6.20 am every day. I then shower, eat breakfast, do the dishes, and I’m off to work. I have the lights set to change color, so I know when it’s time to head out the door.
Once I arrive at work, I catch up on my emails and check the comms channels. As CEO, my primary role is to ensure everyone has what they need to keep moving forward. Most mornings are spent in meetings, solving problems, and supporting the team.
In the afternoon, I try to set time aside to focus on my list of tasks. They’re crucial to moving towards our vision as a business. I get them completed in week-long sprints.
Of course, as a rapidly growing company, I often have to divert my attention to issues that pop up. I never have a typical day. For example, today, I had to find time to fix a team member’s broken laptop.
At 4.30 in the afternoon, I head home and hop on an exercise bike for half an hour. I make sure I keep my heart rate above 140 beats per minute, not worrying about how fast I’m pedaling.
I have dinner with the family at 6 pm every day and then do the dishes. I grew up doing the dishes, so it’s a chore I’m happy to do.
At 7.30 pm, I jump back into work. As it’s nice and quiet, I find it’s an excellent opportunity to get things done and focus on critical tasks. I’ll then make sure I’m in bed by 11 pm.
🔥Since launching Cointree, what has worked to attract and retain users?
SS: What’s worked best has been our approach to making cryptocurrency really accessible. I make a lot of key decisions with this focus in mind. Ultimately, we do this because we really care about our customers and want them to be successful.
Part of this approach involves providing as much information and educational material to people as possible. With so many people investing their money into cryptocurrencies, we want to empower them to make intelligent decisions. This is a big motivation for the entire company.
🔥How are you doing today, and what does the future look like? Let’s talk numbers!
SS: We’re nearing 100k members at Cointree, with more than $250 million exchanged through the platform. This is exciting, not only for the growth of our platform but because it shows how everyday Australians are adopting cryptocurrencies. There’s been a huge uptick in our Self Managed Super Fund investors, who are adding cryptocurrencies to their retirement savings. Overall, the growth in 2021 has far outpaced previous years and has even taken our most optimistic investors by surprise.
We received a significant strategic investment from Silicon Valley-based data analytics company called Indicia Labs last year. We’ve already far surpassed our business expectations at the time of the investment, and the business is continuing to grow quickly. It’s an exciting time.
We’ve also added many unique features to our platform. For example, we have a feature that lets our users pay their bills with crypto. Usage has already increased 98% compared to last year, and it’s only August.
We believe crypto will have a substantially positive impact, so we’re investing for the long term. Every day we hear about more institutions buying Bitcoin and new projects building infrastructure for the crypto ecosystem. It’s very exciting.
I started Cointree because people didn’t really understand crypto, and I wanted them to see the incredible potential of this technology. We’re committed to this vision even as we grow, and we plan to use our platform to inspire trust and build confidence in the digital economy.
🔥Through launching Cointree, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
SS: The most important thing is to believe in yourself. That’s really how Cointree was founded. The idea of a cryptocurrency exchange didn’t make much sense to traditional investors at the time, but I believed it would work.
You also have to realize that it’s okay to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them. Testing ideas and learning from them has got Cointree to where it is today.
On a personal note, if I could change anything, I’d focus on a better work-life balance. It’s easy to get absorbed by what you’re working on, but it’s essential to take breaks too. You have to step back and look at the big picture.
This is especially important during the current pandemic. I know how easy it is to get caught up working every second of the day, but it’s really important that people take time for themselves, and I encourage everyone to do so.
🔥Tell us more about work-life balance.
SS: My biggest challenge over the years has been finding the correct work-life balance. This is especially true in the early years when cryptocurrency became a major passion of mine. I would find myself spending all my free time working on Cointree. It was very tough at times, but fortunately, I have an understanding and supportive family who believe in the vision. Cointree wouldn’t be what it is today without them. It’s taken many years, but I have a strong team around me now, and it’s getting easier.
🔥What platforms and tools do you use for your business?
SS: We live in a world where so much innovative software is being created, so I’m always looking for new tools to help make things more efficient.
We use a lot of different tools in our team. Obviously, during lockdowns, our communication tools like Slack, Asana, and Zoom are essential when we’re working from home.
It’s funny. I still use some old-school tools as well. My desk is currently covered in sticky notes. Yesterday, I had to throw out 20 of them!
🔥What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
SS: When I was focused on growing Cointree, I listened to many growth hacking and business books in the early days. A few favorite books were The Lean Startup and Bullseye Framework. I also used Reddit to keep up with current marketing trends.
These days, I listen to a lot of podcasts. The Jordan Harbinger Show is great for personal development, while I also find Darknet Diaries fascinating. It’s a real eye-opener to the security challenges governments and large corporations face and has a level of detail you don’t get anywhere else.
🔥Do you have any advice for other creators, entrepreneurs, or developers who want to get started or are just starting?
SS: Believe in yourself and be open to making mistakes. In this fast-moving modern world, you need to be able to adapt quickly. That’s the way business works these days. You’ve got to be willing to take risks and learn from your mistakes.
🔥Where do you see this entire crypto and decentralization space going in the next 5 to 10 years?
SS: I see a world where everyone is using digital currencies every day. Kids today won’t be using cash when they grow up. Even before Bitcoin, we were moving to a cash-free society. I can’t even recall the last time I saw somebody actually using physical cash to buy something.
Now that companies like PayPal, Visa, and Mastercard are integrating crypto into their platforms, cryptocurrency awareness and use are exploding. And there are so many use cases that are still to come.
We see a new trend every year or 18 months now. First, it was Smart Contracts, then DeFi, and now NFTs. There’s even the Brave web browser that pays you in crypto for watching ads. The space has so many exciting opportunities.
In many ways, crypto is fulfilling the original decentralized vision of the internet. Not many people know, but when the Web was first created, there was a protocol that would require payment before the content would be available. It’s come full circle.
🔥Where can we go to learn more?
SS: If anyone is looking to get in touch with me, I always enjoy making new connections, so you can find me on LinkedIn. If you want to find out more about Cointree or start investing yourself, you can visit the Cointree website. We also provide a lot of free information about the digital economy there.
🔥Thank you, Shane!
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