This week we spoke to Nitin Agarwal, the founder of B21, the world’s first personal wealth management platform for crypto, about bringing crypto to the mass market and why it’s so important for a fintech product to be regulated. Read the interview below.
Location:Gibraltar About: Co-inventor of the crypto-linked debit card. Fintech and crypto product specialist. Early investor in multiple cryptocurrencies including BTC, ETH and EOS. Experience: Worked with First American, PayPal and Wave Crest. 15 years of experience in building products, financial services, marketing and sales functions.
Interviewer: Hello, Nitin! In your own words, tell us about B21.
Nitin Agarwal: B21 is bringing investing in crypto assets to the masses by building a personal wealth management platform, which lets users create their own portfolio of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, EOS and many others, including bespoke crypto funds. B21Invest allows customers to invest using local fiat currency, has a user-friendly dashboard, and supports recurring investments, allowing users to set financial goals and invest over longer periods of time.
We have applied for a DLT license from the Gibraltar FAC, which will allow B21 to receive funds, exchange currencies, provide custodial services on behalf of its customers and advise on crypto asset investments.
We are also launching B21 Life, a free interactive mobile app which will help educate people about crypto, the technology behind it and investment processes. The app provides training courses, simple explanations of crypto terms, and a curated list of major news articles each day, all with the goal of accelerating mainstream adoption of cryptocurrency assets. The app is free to use and will be available on Apple Store and Google Play. Users of this app can also earn free B21 tokens, which gives them discounts on fees for using the B21 Investment app.
I: What pushed you to create B21?
NA: All three founders knew that it is difficult for common people, like our moms, for example, to get involved in crypto, we knew that something is missing. We decided that there was a gap in the market for a product that would allow the mass market to invest and we had to do something about it. So we started B21.
“With B21 you only need one account to invest in multiple crypto assets.”
I: Apart from investors, who would be interested in your ICO?
NA: Everyone, really. Especially for those that are interested in learning about cryptocurrencies and how they work, we are offering free tutorials and simple explanations of the whole industry, which will be of interest to those looking to make a career in crypto and those who have an interest in cryptocurrency as an investment, but are not sure how to go about it.
I: How is B21 different from competitors?
NA: Most platforms on the market feature highly technical interfaces and require investors to have some knowledge and an understanding of how wallets, passphrases, exchanges and online trading works. If an investor wants to invest in a few different currencies then they need to maintain multiple wallets, multiple trading accounts and manage multiple passwords and usernames. With B21 you only need one account to invest in multiple crypto assets, and it’s very easy to do regardless of your level of crypto knowledge.
I: How have you grown B21’s presence in the market?
NA: We have built momentum in the space from being present at top blockchain events around the world, particularly in Asia, where we have seen a tremendous support for B21.
We are also continuously working on securing opportunities to work with quality businesses, such as our partnerships with Coinfirm, Salus Alpha and Flexepin, and the recent partnership with Decentre for the marketing of B21 in Asia.
Having an advisory board which includes leading cryptocurrency advisors who believe in B21, such as Brock Pierce, Samson Lee, Michael Terpin and Mike Noh is also a key factor in how our presence has grown and continues to grow. In this game credibility is everything.
“In this game credibility is everything.”
I: How does your team work? Do you use any specific techniques?
NA: We use a mix of structured and unstructured ways of working. We ensure that all tech and business documents are in place and that they are structured. We also have unstructured meetings and interactions with the whole team regularly and keep the culture open, so that everyone can ask any questions and get involved with all aspects of our business plan.
I: What are the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome as a company?
NA: One of the biggest challenges that we face is the market itself. Cryptocurrency is a relatively new space, and it’s volatile, so people are scared simply because they don’t understand it.
Besides, the process of investing in cryptocurrency is complicated and requires some technical knowledge, and investment platforms are not built for first-time investors, which puts people off. But we are making it easy for the mass market to invest, that is our main objective.
The regulation process is a challenge too. We aim to be the world’s first regulated and tokenized crypto asset investment company. We have applied for a custodial license to comply with governmental regulations covering protection of customer assets, segregation of customer and company funds, maintaining robust and accurate transaction records, and cold storage of customer funds. By acting as a custodian, B21 eliminates the need for people to hold their own private keys. Gibraltar was the first jurisdiction in the world to launch regulations for DLT related businesses, something we are proud to be a part of. And for our fintech product to be a success we need to be regulated— a process that can be complicated and takes time.
“We want to create the distribution of wealth for everyone…”
I: How was it starting a cryptocurrency and trying to take your company global?
NA: Challenging, exciting, empowering…
I: What’s next for B21? What’s in the nearest future?
NA: Any day now we will be launching our educational app, B21Life, and continuously updating it with fresh content, news, training videos and tutorials. After this, we will be launching B21Invest, our investment app, and after that our ICO will go on sale to the general public. As we grow, we will expand our team in Gibraltar too. It’s a very exciting time for B21.
I: Where would you ideally like to see yourself in 5 years?
NA: In five years I’d like to see B21 build the world’s largest crypto asset investment community. Hopefully, we will have helped millions of people to understand cryptocurrency, the technology behind it, and, most importantly, how to invest. We would also like to see our token become a huge success. It’s in our vision to extend our main office in Gibraltar and to open offices internationally. But, most importantly we want to create the distribution of wealth for everyone!
We would like to see the crypto industry become the future, and with that B21 to become the top investment platform. There is an exciting buzz around Gibraltar in the crypto space at the moment, and we are excited to be a part of that and watch it grow into one of the main cryptocurrency hubs in Europe.
“No one becomes successful by following the norm.”
I: If you had to give one piece of advice to a new entrepreneur, what would it be?
NA: Take that risk, think outside the box, and put in the hard work. When times get stressful and difficult – keep going. No one becomes successful by following the norm. It’s not easy to start a business, it requires a lot of hard work, dedication and sleepless nights, but it is most definitely worth it!
I: Is there something you believe your team can do better than anyone else? What is your strength?
NA: Deliver a regulated fintech product which can scale. For our fintech product to be successful we need licensing, great tech and solid relationships with other providers. This is what we bring to the table as a team.
I: What is the skill you wish you or your team could perfect?
NA: We would like to hone our skills in online marketing — this is something we are continuously striving to do. Digital marketing space is advancing daily and it is important to keep up to date with new trends and expand on existing skills to stay ahead of the game.
I: What’s the best and worst advice you’ve ever been given?
NA: The best advice is “If it was easy everyone would be doing it” and “Focus on people and develop a culture.” The worst advice I’ve received has been “Build it and people will come. Focus on the Tech.”
“People and relationships [are the best investment of money, energy and time for someone who’s trying to succeed]…”
I: Do you believe failure can make or break a person?
NA: I think that failure shapes the person’s character.
I: How do you know when you’ve succeeded?
NA: If my product is being used, then I am successful.
I: What is the best investment of money, energy and time for someone who’s trying to succeed?
NA: People and relationships. Regardless of the type of business you are in, you need to establish and maintain relationships, whether it be with employees, business associates, suppliers or customers. This is what helps your business grow genuinely strong.
I: What’s the best decision you’ve made in the last 10 years?
NA: To work on what I love and what I am passionate about. To work on my strengths and hire people to help me work on my weaknesses.
I: What are the top books you would say have influenced your life or your work ethic the most?
NA: Start-up Nation by Dan Senor and Saul Singer, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff, Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days by Jessica Livingston.
I: How do you wind down after a stressful day? How does one achieve that perfect work-life balance?
NA: By spending time with family, playing with my kids. Work-life balance is difficult. I try to create memories with my family – go for holidays exploring places, spend time building projects and trying new things.