Jin Gonzalez From Oz Finance on Creating a Near-zero Tax Zone in the Philippines
🔥Crypto Fireside #35 — Interviews with crypto people.
🔥Crypto Fireside #35 — Interviews with crypto people.
🔥Hello! Who are you, and what do you do?
JG: Hi, my name is Jin. I’m the Founder of Oz Finance.
I’ve been an entrepreneur for 20 years and a banker for 4. I headed-up the blockchain initiatives for UnionBank which is the largest digital bank in the Philippines, working on everything from PHX - the Philippine stablecoin, to cross-border remittance and the like. Oz Finance is a product of many years of experience in the banking industry looking at what was needed or what’s necessary to move this kind of technology forward.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks or one of the biggest factors that slows down blockchain implementation and creates limitations, for obvious reasons, is regulation.
So, Oz is a collaboration with AFAB (AUTHORITY OF THE FREEPORT AREA OF BATAN) which is one of the freeports here in the Philippines, designed to establish a residency and business operations program where an individual who purchases a specific token (TOTOz) that is recognized as an investment into that zone, would be able to get personal or business residency on a tax-free basis for a limited time out of AFAB.
Importantly, this does not require you to reside in the Philippines.
Essentially when you acquire a business operation or a visa, you can reside anywhere in the world but you get to avail of the benefits of having a visa or a business that operates under the tax regime of AFAB. We call this ‘Open Zone Living’.
🔥What’s your backstory, and how did Oz Finance come about?
JG: Oz is really a product of serendipitous events that occurred in the past 3 and a half years of which certain experts in their respective fields were able to come together to deliver something very special— as far as blockchain technology implementation is concerned.
To give a short history of Oz, in the Philippines, RA 11453 was amended in August of 2019 which paved the way for the issuance, exchange, and custody of digital assets from AFAB, after which the rules and regulations were drafted in April 2020. Following that, an exchange called GTX or Iwave Advanced Research was appointed as the exchange to bring in investment into AFAB functioning as an operator within AFAB.
The next step was the recognition of tokens as an investment into the region, as it provided liquidity to the exchange under a specific staking program, so through that, its first token is a residency-enabled token, we were able to attract individuals that would stake the token residency and their business operation out of the zone.
The end effect is that any individual, by simply purchasing the tokens and staking a specific amount for a specific period would now be able to get residency and business operation status within a tax-free environment within AFAB.
Now, Oz is not just limited to Bataan or AFAB. Oz is a global initiative that intends to duplicate the model that it has or create a bespoke program for any of the 540 other ecozones which exist globally today.
🔥Describe the process of launching or preparing to launch Oz Finance.
JG: It took around 6 months to create a product for Oz, it was huge collaboration between AFAB, the Department of Immigration, and other government agencies as well as the exchange mentioned above and the wider Oz community, many gears all coming together to create what we have today.
Initially, and after all of the regulatory requirements were met, we did a live test with two individuals. One is a fellow from Singapore who staked his tokens for a personal residency, and another is fellow from the United States who staked his tokens to receive both residency and business operations status. Both programs took around 3 months to complete. That’s so that we could get the whole process done properly, after which we launched the project in Dubai at the end of March 2022.
As of April of 2022, we can now welcome aboard a large number of individuals that intend to stake in order to receive residency or tax-free operation out of AFAB.
🔥Will TOTOz be used as a currency within the Ecozone borders?
JG: TOTOz does not function as a currency as all of the other tokens intend to.
TOTOz has a very specific function in that it’s recognized as an investment into the zone, and its sole purpose is to grant residency and business operation to those individuals applying for said status.
It’s not designed to be used to buy or sell products or services, there are many other tokens in the market that could do that, and that is not the objective of the TOTOz token. It’s highly specialized in that it is designed to be able to grant you a specific kind of life or lifestyle under the utility that it’s intended for, which is a residency and tax-free operation out of AFAB and other member ecozones.
Ultimately the goal of Oz or TOTOz token is to afford individuals complete portability of residency and business operation such that you live in one zone and if the regulation or government is not to your liking, all you have to do is unstake the token and re-stake it to another zone to gain residency and business operation in that zone. It’s freedom effectively. That is what it grants you, which I believe is not existent with any other token out there.
🔥What has worked to attract and retain investors?
JG: Well, ask yourself this question — Would you like to receive a privacy-protected, regulation-supported, tax-free life? If the answer to that is yes, which I believe is pretty much everyone or almost everyone reading this, then this is of use to you.
Most of the time when you tell people this, that this is exactly what we do here at Oz Finance, they’ve never heard of such a thing and it instantly peaks their interest so it’s honestly not hard to attract them. The next part is retaining them, it is purely all paperwork. If they meet the requirements, we proceed from there, if not and if they have already purchased the token and staked it, they unstake it and move on with their life.
🔥Which chain is TOTOZ being launched on and why?
JG: TOTOz is currently on BSC or Binance Smart Chain, so we looked at all of the other blockchains out there and that one was the one that was most fit for our specific use.
🔥How are you doing today, and what does the future look like? Let’s talk numbers!
JG: So we did an initial AMA, this was before AIBC when we launched the TOTOz token, we presented it to around 120 individuals, and we had a 72% conversion rate. Important to note that this was mostly a non-crypto community. That’s what gave us a lot of confidence.
This is a product that is not specifically built for the crypto community, this is a product that addresses a systemic need throughout the entire planet.
Everybody wants to live with a certain degree of privacy protection– not complete privacy protection, but a certain degree that’s balanced out and meets regulatory requirements. Nobody wants to be over-regulated, but regulation is good in a sense, that’s how you keep the peace. And we assume everyone also wants to live a life where they are not overtaxed. Although taxation is good in a sense too because it provides basic services back to the community but to some extent. So, considering that the token allows you a certain degree of freedom in these 3 aspects (privacy, regulation and taxes), the adoption was quite high in the initial phase.
We went through the event in Dubai (AIBC) successfully, and it was very clear that it was a product that the market wanted once they knew it was available. That’s also why when we went there, the regulators were side by side with us to be able to launch the project, that was surprising to a lot of people and what’s happened since is that we’ve now received key supporters through the community at large that are helping to be able to spread the word.
I think within 2–3 months we’ll see Oz really begin to take off. Once this is listed on the exchanges which we have received approvals for, people will look at it.
🔥Through launching Oz Finance, what is something you have learned that surprised you?
JG: What we learned is that preparation is key. This is not a product that’s just launched in two-three months this is a product that has been in the works for the past three and a half years. It required the cooperation of many individuals to be able to deliver it because it’s not just a tech-based product.
There’s many tech-only products out there that are either a complete copy of an existing blockchain project, a combination of several use-cases that are intended to innovate or improve on an existing product or service, or something else..so it’s either an improvement, a combination, or a complete copy. It’s either one of those three. Oz is neither one of those, Oz is completely new and novel, and it’s not just an idea or concept but an actualized implementation that is already live, people can stake it right now and in thirty-sixty days they will be given notice whether they can avail of that lifestyle and tax-status or not.
A lot of times people have a belief in blockchain technology doing a specific thing for them, in our case, at least as far as my team’s concerned we believe that technology needs to provide specific freedoms to individuals.
🔥Mistakes were made. What were they and what did you do?
JG: Daily, some mistakes are made, but these mistakes are intentional in a sense because you need to make mistakes. Failures are required in order to be able to do the correct thing. We live in a constant state of innovation.
The product today is going to be different from the product tomorrow and the day after and the day after that.
The product continues to develop and be refined as we engage other jurisdictions and as we engage with certain individuals, but the important thing is as we find what the problem is, we solve the problem, create a system around it, preferably a tech-enabled system so that it’s scalable, but importantly, and don’t confuse this, the end-product itself cannot be tech-based only, it has to be service-based around humanity, fundamentally it has to improve the life of the individual, if it cannot do that then it’s not worth developing at all.
If it’s based purely on technology then it’s something that can be easily duplicated and not necessarily accepted just because it’s a good product. Look at Bitcoin, crypto and blockchain in general, just because they are great the technological advancement does not mean they are necessarily great implementations in service to humanity (yet), and that’s not our intent with Oz. Our intent is to focus on problems that are very difficult to solve and require a little bit more work to launch. We’re working with the regulators to launch products with a tech-base that can be actualized in service to individuals. We believe that after three and a half years this product, this service that we have created, is something that meets those standards.
🔥What have been the most influential things in your life that affected your project? This can include books, podcasts, or people?
JG: Ever since I was a teenager, around the age of 16, I would listen to self improvement tapes, videos and read those kinds of books. You have experiences in life that affect you negatively and positively, but they all affect you in one form or another — the important part is to take all of these experiences, at some point in your life when the timing is right, you will be able to connect the dots within those experiences, and you will be able to organize the team that you need in order to be able to execute the vision that you have. So in this case, because of my experience with UnionBank or with my previous employers, I was able to meet up with various regulators, see the way they feel and think, see what their objectives are and use that understanding to our overall advantage in building out this project.
It was the same from my banking and business background. I was able to see how the banking industry works because I’m an entrepreneur of 20 years. I’m not fazed by challenges or difficulties or lack of funds, some people will panic in a situation where you’re running out of money, but as an entrepreneur that’s just part of life, you will understand as long as you are steady and focused, eventually what happens is things work out and you also learn not to take things personally when it doesn’t work out so you just keep moving forward regardless.
Your team needs to be able to see this steady forward, persistent movement as you’re advancing the enterprise, at some point, it’s not anymore about the business, it’s about the improvement of the community, improvement of the lives of the district that you’re operating out of or the entire country that is trying to benefit. We truly believe that Oz is a product and service that will improve the lives of individuals and will affect positively the zones that participate, and hopefully, the country that these zones are located in, that’s the intent.
🔥Do you have any advice for other creators, entrepreneurs, or developers who want to get started or are just beginning?
JG: Yes, well I guess, do not fall in love with the product.
The product is never gonna be the right product, just get used to the activity of continuously evolving and improving, and eventually you will be able to connect the dots and the experiences that you have will lead to the ‘right product’. I’m not even saying that Oz is the right product, in its current state, the way I see it, in its current form it’s good but it needs improvement and I recognize that what it will be or what it could be in the next 2 weeks, 2 months, 2 years there’s a chance that it could possibly be completely different from what it is right now. It all depends on the conversations that we have as a community and with each other to be able to improve the product.
As an entrepreneur the answer does not lie with you, the answer lies in the discussions and the questions that you have and how you engage with other people because it’s through that engagement that you come up with the right ideas that are intended to bring your product or your vision forward.
Basically, don’t get too attached to the product or how you relate to it because you’ll find out that there are many people who are much smarter than you, and you need to involve those people who are smarter than you for that particular product or service to grow. At a point you have to give it up and share it. So it’s a journey. Just keep going at it, keep on focusing, stay on the path, and don’t give up.
🔥Where do you see the blockchain, cryptocurrency, and decentralization space going in the next 5 to 10 years?
JG: I think it’s going to balance itself out. It has to.
As you can see everybody that initially got into blockchain was like ‘oh God this is going to be a utopia, everything is going to be decentralized everyone’s gonna be peer to peer’, and that’s not the case right now. Some governments are using that technology to gain more control which is the antithesis of what the technology was intended to do in the first place.
Financial institutions are using it to gain more market share, so where is the decentralization there? I think at the end of the day it should be a balance. And it will be. There is a reason why regulators and governments are in place, and what’s going to happen here is there needs to be a balance in the execution of the technology, so that the individual can avail of certain freedoms and opportunities that the technology can bring forward, but at the same time regulators need to be able to balance it out with their responsibilities.
The unfortunate part is that right now, it’s a vicious cycle because the individuals are using the technology for one purpose alone, which is to gain wealth and not to gain freedom. It’s greed that ruins their implementation of the technology, you can see that in all the pump and dumps, what that does is it distorts what the technology can bring and the immediate knee-jerk reaction of regulators is to have a tighter hold on it, but they’re doing that within reason, it’s not like they’re doing that because they want to, they have to do it to protect the people that were affected negatively by the technology or its implementation, so at some point it’s gotta balance out.
I think the projects that are really going to be beneficial are the ones that are intended to provide a balanced implementation, it’s not going to be a completely decentralized world, it is going to be a centralized and decentralized world combined, that’s the way that’s going to go. How is that gonna look? Nobody knows, but that’s the great thing about this tech, if nobody knows, it’s up to us to create what that future looks like, the question is, where do you belong as far as implementation is concerned? Those that recognize the need for balance, I think they are also the ones that are going to end up most successful with the implementations that they are pursuing because they are aiming to keep both sides happy.
🔥Where can we go to learn more?
Website link: https://oz.finance/
🔥Thank you, Jin!
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