Fred Schebesta is probably Bitcoin’s highest-profile advocate in Australia, rivalled perhaps only by YouTuber Alex Saunders. Schebesta can regularly be seen on television promoting and defending crypto in appearances like this one on Sky News and this one on the ABC, where he squared off against AMP chief economist Shane Oliver.
Stockhead talked to the Finder.com.au co-founder and director in his Sydney office on Tuesday last week as part of a series of occasional articles on the various hodlers, traders, developers and influencers that make up Australia and New Zealand’s cryptocurrency scene.
As a dedicated computer profitably mined Ethereum nearby and monitors on the wall displayed crypto price charts, Schebesta demonstrated how the Finder smartphone app now allows users to purchase Bitcoin in less than a minute, through instant bank transfers.
About a thousand customers have used the app to buy Bitcoin since Finder added the functionality on May 18, the day before the last month’s crypto-crash.
Right now users can’t transfer their BTC off the Finder app, but that functionality may come later, Schebesta says. For now the app offers a segment of the population who don’t want to deal with exchanges a very simple way to get exposure to Bitcoin.
Stockhead: How did you get into crypto?
Schebesta: We started writing about Bitcoin and Ethereum on Finder in 2017, and it was just a topic as a financial product; something people were interested in. We were like, no one really understands this, so let’s try and educate people. So we started writing about it. And ’17 led to a pretty big run, and it got really really popular. And we just rode that wave up and wrote all the content. And then you know ’18, it pulled back, kept writing on cryptocurrencies, all the different coins on exchanges. ’19, did the same thing, and then ’20, it came back — May 2020 with the Halvening.
We just had laid so many foundations; we kept investing through the winter. And we started a cryptocurrency brokerage in February 2018, HiveEx. We actually in August of 2020 to FTX, and then we obviously consolidate it all into the Finder app. And we launched that in May 2021 So, yeah, it went full circle all the way back from building this brand and then, Finder writing about it and then we came all the way back and put it inside Finder.
Stockhead: So 2017 was your first exposure to it?
Schebesta: Well, I was mining it back in the day; I think I lost all those coins though. They might be on a hard drive somewhere. But I’ve definitely heard about a lot along the way. I read about Ethereum a lot in 2016 — I was like, this is the future and I’m really keen on it. I didn’t understand what it was exactly. But ’17 really went into it; ’18 went deep, because we’ve obviously got the brokerage; and ’19, ’20, just kept on building on it, really.
So I’ve been on a pretty wild ride. Been to Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, I spoke at Consensus [conference] in New York, went to London, went to a hackathon there, wrote a smart contract … pretty wild times.
I think I just played around a lot of coins. Have been very big on decentralized finance and earning a yield because I love that whole concept of banking and finance. Crypto is enabling new financial systems.
Stockhead: It is like this parallel financial system — rudimentary, but you can see that’s what people are building.
Schebesta: Yeah, the second one; two of them going on at the same time. One is decentralized, the other one is centralized. What we’re trying to do is build tools to enable everyday Americans, Australians, to use them; use the functions that are there.
Obviously, we have a lot of customers that want to compare things and want to save money and make money. I think cryptocurrency and particularly DeFi is a great way to do that.
Stockhead: What is it that appeals to you about crypto?
Schebesta: It’s real-time. It’s always on. It’s a combination of finance, tech and marketing, which are my three favourite things. And it allows you to make money. I think it’s like when the internet first came was around. I was around in 2000, 2001, building websites and stuff.
It just feels the same. I feel like DeFi is that first real-use case that makes it really simple and easy to do. It’s like the email of crypto, where you can earn a yield, because yield is in demand right now.
I invested in the ICO of Nexo in March 2019, and I’ve held those coins for a long time. I think it’s a great company, because they obviously have a yield. I just loved that idea. It’s genius.
Stockhead: What about NFTs?
Schebesta: I’m not as big on NFTs; I don’t get it as much. I get the horse racing stuff. I’m starting to get into it a little. Animoca Brands I think is amazing.
Schebesta: Yeah, the Moto GP, the F1 Delta Time [blockchain games] … some of it’s going to come and go.
Stockhead: So how do you feel on a day like today, when the market’s crashing?
Schebesta: It’s my second bull run, so I feel comfortable when it goes down. When everyone’s capitulated, I’ll be the guy buying it up.
Stockhead: Nice, nice.
Schebesta: I think the lowest we can get to is, I don’t know, could be 10 grand? This doesn’t feel like a $3,000… no way. Fifteen grand, maybe? [Market sentiment was much more bearish early last week, when this interview was conducted]
Stockhead: I’d think 20 would be the bottom.
Schebesta: I think it could even go through 20. Get that real capitulation sort of feel. Ten to 15 is my sort of bottom; get that real capitulation sort of feel. Like if it hit $10,000 Bitcoin, how many would you buy?
Stockhead: Where do you think it’s going from here, both price-wise, and as far as taking over financial systems? People in crypto can be very grandiose.
Schebesta: I think now’s the time to build. Just ignore the markets; just build. Building time for now.
Stockhead: What are your favourite tokens?
Schebesta: I like Binance Coin. Real controversial thing to say, but I like Binance.
I had a tough experience obviously with Polygon, but I still think that network is amazing, so fast. I like Nexo tokens, I think it’s genius, that dividend. I like Bitcoin; I’m a big Bitcoin fan. I think stablecoins like USDC sure.
Projects-wise I like Alpaca Finance on Binance Chain; those guys are great. They do a great job. They’re very safe, secure.
PancakeSwap, really good with cakes [cake tokens] and stuff.
I’m just a very big believer in Binance, because I think it’s an incredible entity. I think it will become bigger and bigger over time.
I think they’re amazing, innovative. I think they’re gonna be like the New York Stock Exchange of crypto.
Stockhead: And Iron Finance [where Schebesta got burned when the project collapsed]; have you thought more about it, what happened?
Schebesta: What I realised is, when things get unstable, you get your money out.
Schebesta: But there was a trade in it as well; I was just too scared to take it. I should have gone back and bought Iron and converted it and I would have probably made my money back. But you just get scared by those things and when you’re like that, when you’re you’re tilted, I think you just keep making dumb decisions. I think the key is just to step away …
Schebesta: Yeah, and just put the gun down. (laughs) That’s how I feel about it. And I just got hit hard. It’s good to walk away for a bit.
Stockhead: Is the project dead? Do you think it can come back?
Schebesta: It’s still running on Binance Chain which is interesting.
I think the speed of the transactions caused it to flip out. Polygon is just a different dimension. When you have really really fast transactions, the dynamics change. And it’s 1/2000 of a cent to run a transaction. And they’re fast, that’s what caused it to really spin out. All the bots got crazy. Yeah, the faster the chain, the faster the project comes and goes. It was doing so well for a couple of weeks — and it just lost it in four hours. It’s quite amazing, actually. But I think it’s because of the speed of the chain. I think you put like some other projects on a chain like that they would fall over as well.
Stockhead: Can you ever see crypto replacing cash, national currencies?
Schebesta: Yeah. definitely. I think it’s gonna happen. For sure.
Stockhead: How long do you think it’ll take?
Schebesta: I reckon five years.
Stockhead: Were you watching the El Salvador law?
Schebesta: I thought that was interesting.
There’s this new crypto inquiry in Australia right now, I think will be very interesting. I think after that the government will have a lot of cadence around potentially doing something with it but the stablecoin — or not. But I think it’s getting closer.
The UK for sure, it’s building something. That’s happening. Once they do that then, Australia tends to copy. Like Open Banking.
Stockhead: Anything else I should ask, that people should know?
Schebesta: We’re we’re gonna roll out some really innovative products. Yeah, we’re looking at the DeFi space, and how can we bridge that to be for retail [consumers; everyday people]. We’re really, really focused on that, figuring out a way to do that. Just a way to bridge the complexity to retail. We see ourselves as that bridge from crypto to retail and making it easier. That’s really our space.
The views, information, or opinions expressed in the interview in this article are solely those of the interviewee and do not represent the views of Stockhead.
Stockhead has not provided, endorsed or otherwise assumed responsibility for any financial product advice contained in this article.
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