Tomorrow’s Google, Facebook, Microsoft would originate on blockchain, says Ashish Singhal of CoinSwitch Kuber

In this week’s 100X Entrepreneur Podcast, Ashish Singhal, Founder and CEO of CoinSwitch Kuber, talks about the startup’s phenomenal growth journey and more.
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India is now seeing a rise in investor and user confidence in crypto. In fact, a Chainalysis report in August revealed that India ranks second when it comes to global crypto adoption in 2021, second to only Vietnam.

Crypto startups in the country are also making use of this opportunity. 

Earlier in October, CoinSwitch Kuber raised $260 million in its Series C round and became the second Indian crypto startup to enter the unicorn club. CoinDCX was the first.

Launched in 2017, CoinSwitch Kuber took to international markets as ‘CoinSwitch’ due to the Reserve Bank of India’s ban on crypto and witnessed rapid growth globally.

In March 2020, when the Supreme Court overturned RBI’s ban, the three co-founders — Ashish Singhal (CEO), Govind Soni (CTO), and Vimal Sagar (COO) — decided to pause their global operations and focus solely on India. 

In a conversation with Siddhartha Ahluwalia, Founder and Host of 100X Entrepreneur, Ashish Singhal, Founder and CEO of CoinSwitch Kuber, says, “We launched [CoinSwitch] Kuber in June 2020, almost 17 months back. And that’s where our real journey began. We paused our global operations to focus totally on India, and within the first six months, got to over one and a half million users organically. Today, [we have] about 13 million users.”

For Ashish, the journey in the crypto space began in 2013 after he read the Bitcoin whitepaper. “It kind of opened up the entire financial ecosystem to me,” he recalls.

“I started running a node for Bitcoin validation. Then, got my first Bitcoin in 2015, started trading it, and over time, got my interest completely aligned with the crypto world. And in 2017, we started CoinSwitch.”

From global to India-focused

 The three founders, who have been friends for 14 years now, decided to solve a simple problem — aggregate data from crypto exchanges around the world to help traders get the best rate possible.

“We made a MakeMyTrip for cryptocurrency, helping you discover the best price, as well as convert one crypto to another very easily,” says Ashish.

And the rest is history. Within a month of its launch, the startup raised funding from Sequoia Capital. Today, it is not only backed by notable investors, including Ribbit Capital, Coinbase Ventures, and Tiger Global, among others, but it is also the first Indian startup to be backed by Andreessen Horowitz (a16z).

So, how has that journey been so far?

Ashish says, “I think running a business was always in our DNA, and we always wanted to do right. We never wanted to just have VC money unless we had a product-market fit; we never wanted to invest in that. We wanted to invest in the product itself. We wanted to keep on fighting until we actually solved the user problem. And that ultimately impacted business.”

With multiple crypto startups operating in India today, what makes Kuber such a lucrative product? According to the founder, the answer lies in making things ‘simple’.

While the startup gained over two million users through organic channels, it decided to expand its horizon by further “simplifying the messaging”. And, Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh entered the picture, as the startup's first brand ambassador.

“He’s a youth icon. Today, most of our users are Gen Z; they’ve seen him across his films and admire his work. And through his admiration and relatability, we want to drive the crypto messages — that it’s simple. There’s a new asset class happening; learn about it and you can start [with] as low as Rs 100 as an investment,” says Ashish. 

A volatile asset and market

Ashish is very clear about the brand’s messaging. It is a new asset class, he says, but adds, “We always say crypto is volatile; it is a volatile market.” 

According to him, crypto is building the ‘new internet’. Comparing the startup’s journey to the market it serves, the entrepreneur says investing in crypto is like investing in a startup.

“If you look at our own journey, we were under the hood for about three years, then blew up in just one year. So, it was a volatile journey for us as well…[We believe] tomorrow’s Google, Facebook, Microsoft, would originate on blockchain and hopefully, would come from India.” 

He adds that as retail investors begin investing in these new ecosystems, some are bound to fail. “But some of them may succeed as well. So, it’s a risky asset class. High-risk, high-reward is what attracts young users into the ecosystem,” he adds.

But, eventually, CoinSwitch Kuber wants to become a “crypto-first” company. 

“Today, crypto is what we are known for. But tomorrow, we want to add mutual funds, stocks, US equities, and bonds into our ecosystem, helping users diversify across these platforms,” says Ashish.

Last but not least, on the one thing that has continued to push him, Ashish says, “Don’t be afraid of failure. Always optimise for success, but be prepared for failure. I think that is one thing that has always pushed me to do more, to do better, because failure is the one thing that we all are afraid of ultimately.”

To know more, listen to the entire podcast here.

01:40 – Background prior to CoinSwitch

05:33 – Hackathons and starting CoinSwitch

08:39 – Growing globally and launching in India

12:17 – Choosing the right investors for their journey

15:49 – Success of the pre-launch campaign in India

17:19 – Simplifying the crypto-investing experience

29:57 – Current scale on the platform

33:14 – “Users always come first, business comes second.”

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