Franklin Peters, CEO Bitfxt, came into the spotlight in Feburary 2019, when it was reported that the company got funding of up to $15m (over 5 billion naira) from UK syndicate of hedge funds and UK company, Payitup Clearinghouse. In this exclusive chat, he tells us about his journey and shares his thoughts on the challenges Blockchain/cryptocurrency start-ups experience in Africa. He also gives up a sneak peek into Bitfxt’s plans for subsequent months.
Pizza: We know that you are a highly talented entrepreneur. We know that you are a focused CEO in the blockchain & cryptocurrency space in Africa. We also know that you are Bitfxt’s Founder & CEO. Briefly, tell us what we don’t know, including whether you are Satoshi.
Franklin: Lol… First, I am not Satoshi, I am Franklin Peters, a computer scientist and software developer with much interest in Research and Development, especially in the fields of blockchain and other related technologies such as AI, big data, Dev Ops and Robotics.
Pizza: Bitfxt prides itself as a leading cryptocurrency startup with groundbreaking and innovative products that take “blockchain to the people” as your startup puts it in its motto. How has the journey being, especially in a tough business environment like Nigeria?
Franklin: The journey has not been easy I must say. The blockchain “industry” is a global industry with several players from all over the world offering the same service to the same clientele and customers. To stay afloat in such a vast upcoming industry with global players, we try to always creatively innovate new ideas that are peculiar to the Nigerian market.
Pizza: Recently, Bitfxt introduced its Initial Exchange Offering (IEO) platform. What inspired this and how has the reception been from projects in the space?
Franklin: There are lots of amazing startups in Nigeria and across Africa but they are obscure due to lack of funds and support. Through our IEO launchpad, we hope to help these startups gain exposure and transparently raise enough money to run their projects. We have received numerous email requests from several start-ups within and outside Nigeria. So far, I will say the response has been positive.
Pizza: What is that one thing that you think blockchain or cryptocurrency start-ups in Africa are not getting right and may be holding them back in the global market?
Franklin: The biggest challenge faced by African blockchain start-ups is lack of funds and support from investors. Most African startups don’t have enough funds to hire experienced team and professional staff … this leaves them half baked and unprepared for angel investors.
Pizza: In February 2019, the news of Bitfxt getting funding of up to $15m (over N5billion) was all over the news for weeks. According to the news, including update by Bitfxt, Bitfxt got the funding from a UK syndicate of hedge funds and UK company, Payitup Clearinghouse. For 15 pizzas, can you tell us how a crypto startup from Nigeria or anywhere in Africa achieved this historic feat?
Franklin: Bitfxt was an idea that was born out the need to provide a secure exchange for Nigerians to easily buy, store and sell their cryptocurrencies for fiat or other cryptocurrencies. We grew from just 1 staff to 15 staff and 3 branches in Nigeria. Running an exchange with over 10,000 registered users can be demanding and even more taxing for a start-up that’s fully funded by just me as the CEO and so it became a necessity to look out for funding and additional support so as to quickly scale without so much pressure. We started applying to attend funding events, I also personally reached out to a couple of friends and organizations one of which was THAWER FUNDS which eventually worked out after over one year of due diligence. Through those periods, we maintained excellent services, tight security, and customer satisfaction. My advise to other start ups is; stay focused, maintain excellent services and “cast your bread upon many waters…” reach out to as many investors as possible and someday, one will pull through.
Pizza: Imagine how many pizzas we could bake with all that money! Alright, on a serious note, a few days after the news of the $15m funding hit the airwaves, a piece was published by a Cryptotvplus writer. That piece raised what it described as the many questions arising from the funding–from the undisclosed valuation of Bitfxt to the doubtful status of the investors involved. As Bitfxit’s CEO, what’s your reaction to this?
Franklin: At first, it came to me and the entire team as a shock as to the reason such a negative, unverified publication should be made without giving us a benefit of doubt. However, it’s in the past and we have moved on. Courtesy of our funding, we are cooking a lot of pizza that will benefit the entire Nigerian blockchain and crypto space, we will be announcing some very soon.
Pizza: Apart from the $15m funding, there is also the agreement about extending a $125-million revolving margin facility for Bitfxt exchange traders. In simple terms, could you throw some light on this facility? How does it benefit Bitfxt and how do the investors benefit from it?
Franklin: Our partners are currently working on the infrastructure that will power this facility. Once that is launched and fully deployed, we will push out proper education to the community on how it works.
Pizza: Away from the oven now, Bitfxt recently introduced what it described as the-first-of-its-kind cryptocurrency-powered ATM cards that can be used anywhere in the world and you also have Boundlesspay, your crypto-payment solution. Tell us a bit about these innovations and how the level of adoption has been so far.
Franklin: Boundlesspay is a merchant payment solution that allows anyone receive payments in cryptocurrencies seamlessly from any website of retail store globally as well as make micropayments such as data top-ups, airtime recharge, TV subscription, etc. Payments received are instantly settled in any currency choice of the merchant the same day and at a low fee. On the other hand, Bpay card being the first of its kind was inspired as a result of the difficulty faced by users in spending and withdrawing their cryptocurrencies. Bpay attracted lots of users within and outside Nigeria… we are currently in talks with a commercial bank in Nigeria to offer a more robust service and to attract more customers within Nigeria.
Pizza: Do you think local venture capitalists in Nigeria and other African countries are doing enough in the blockchain space and the FinTech space generally?
Franklin: So far, there has been little or no news involving local venture capitalists in Nigeria regarding funding of any startups. I think more local venture capitalists need to step up and support more start ups.
Pizza: Finally, if you were Laszlo Hanyecz, the man who paid 10,000 bitcoins for two pizzas in May 2010, how would you honestly react when you see bitcoin price today at over $6700 per coin?
Franklin: I will have mixed feelings. First, I will feel like I lost a fortune considering the current price of BTC and how much my 10,000 BTC would have translated to if converted at today’s rate… on the other hand, I will feel like a hero, knowing that my BTC to PIZZA trade inspired the p2p crypto trading as we see it today. I made a move and the world followed!