Today we have Mike De’Shazer from Proof to answer our questions.
Our questions are in bold.
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Who are you and what’s your background?
My name is Mike De’Shazer. I come from a background in software and business development. I have about twelve years of software development experience. I taught programming for quite a few years in New York City. I then turned towards building an app factory school where we created over 30 applications with students. We then turned that into Code Cloud, which is a website where people can learn how to code in teams from around the world building real world projects. Afterwards I moved to Korea to study and work on artificial intelligence. I didn’t want to be in America while doing it. I basically ended up essentially coding and used AI for Blockchain trading and it was awesome. I liked it and the school loved it. And the rest is history. That’s how I got into Blockchain and its related technologies.
What is your job title and what are your general responsibilities?
I’m the CEO and my general responsibilities are sitting as an intermediary of everything from overseeing product, engineering, and business development all the way to marketing. I try to then make sure all of these initiatives are moving forward in a coordinated fashion.
Can you give us an overview of your business?
Here at proof we are taking real world assets and entities and putting them on the Blockchain for users to transfer them among other users. Our unique selling point is that we can allow people to trade things at much lower and smaller scale than typically what’s available today. Back in the day if you wanted to transfer property to someone you had to usually invest thousands of dollars. With our platform you can invest one or two dollars.
That’s one of the biggest selling points against other investment platforms. Then again there are stocks, penny stocks for example, that are just one or two dollars. There are also apps like Robinhood. However, we’re not just an investment platform, we are more of a community and initiatives investment platform. People can invest in not only assets such as real estate, but also in initiatives and community projects that they actually believe in. I believe that’s a really big differentiator for us. There are going to be people that log on and use it to make money but for our platform most users are going to be investing in things that are around them or in initiatives around the world hoping that in the end they will be successful.
So our business model at the moment is offering free services, providing the most value to people while also developing revenue streams centered around value that we create over time based on network effects that are business generates. Currently we generate some revenue on the spread and conversion rates of cryptocurrencies.
So we’re getting a lot of support from the Fintech and Blockchain community even though our platform is fairly early. I think that we’ve found a lot of people in the industry who are really interested in our initiative. We’ve also opened up our APIs on the developmental side of our platform for smart contracts which have also garnered a lot of support in the Blockchain development community for simplifying the process for end users.
Tell us how you are funded.
We are mostly funded by returns we’ve all made on cryptocurrencies in the past. We’re also planning to do an ICO in the coming months to raise funding in the future months.
Why did you start the company? To solve what problems?
The biggest problem we are solving is that it’s hard to buy pieces of things around you. Not only that, it’s very difficult to trade it. So, for example, I’m in a fundrise that invested in the American heartland, but due to current limitations, I’m stuck, so to speak, in that investment for the next three to four years. While I’ll get dividends and other forms of return on my investment, most of it has limited liquidity. Second, with stocks, there are also limitations. One of the biggest is that if I want to buy, sell, or trade, I have to do it during select hours (example 9-5) and only during the weekdays. As a general solution, one can even move away from stocks and invest in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum using the multitude of apps that are available, but in my mind, our goal at Proof is that we want to make it easier for people to involve themselves in the potential upsides of things around them or in issues that they believe in. One of our other big markets are people who are raising funding for things. We want for them to be able to securely issue their own types of assets using our platform, providing a gateway for users that were previously limited before. We’re solving the problems that are manifestations of the general inefficiencies of the current global financial market. The economy is not democratized in a sense that only a select few with high net worth can actually participate in investing on a scale that matters, leveraging everyone else’s money. That’s the problem we’re seeking to and currently solving.
Who are your target customers? What’s your revenue model?
Our target customers are mostly millennials who are interested in blockchain, which is a rapidly growing demographic.
Our revenue model right now is essentially creating network effects. It comes from the spreads of cryptocurrencies and on the conversion rates, that’s we generate revenue right now. Down the road, we plan to offer more enterprise tools for brokers and financial institutions. More analytics, more account management tools for the bigger guys, the enterprises, who need it, even though they don’t need it yet, but that will come later.
If you had a magic wand, what one thing would you change in the banking and/or FinTech sector?
If I had a magic wand I would make it so that United States, Russia, China, UK, Japan etc.—all issued their own freely traded cryptocurrencies. They could get them by visiting their bank, or atm. When you start account, they would ask you if you would like to use their Bitcoin account, Usd account, Ethereum account etc. That would be awesome.
What is your message for the larger players in the Finance industry?
If you are looking for something exciting to do, to change the financial industry—we would be happy to talk to you.
What phone are you carrying and why?
I carry a Samsung Galaxy A7. Because it has a great camera, very lightweight, and I have an emotional attachment to it. Like everybody, I’ve lost a few phones in my life, usually I get a different style phone, but this time, I got the same exact phone—that’s how much I like it. I like the color, the screen is vibrant, it looks nice, the size fits in my hand. You know it’s not too small not too big, basically everything about it.
Where do you get your industry news from?
I get industry news mostly from Linkedin because I follow really awesome people.
Can you list 3 people you rate from the FinTech sector that we should be following on Twitter?
@elonmusk CEO of Tesla Inc, a business and technology business pretty much.
@MikeBloomberg Politician, Entrepreneur and overall, an achiever
@davidein Founder of greenlight capital
Can you suggest the name of an Angel Investor or VC that might be interested in being profiled?
Ash Han (Seung Hwan). He’s the founder of COSMOS, an amazing project that aims to create a network of distributed ledgers, and very active in the Fintech and blockchain scene. He’s the founder and organizer in Ethereum Korea, the first and largest Ethereum community in South Korea.
What’s the best FinTech product or service you’ve seen recently?
Best Brokers. It’s a social investing game, a stock simulator which gives you $25.000 to start with. Me and my wife are completely addicted to this app. Everyone should use it.
Finally, let’s talk predictions. What trends do you think are going to define the next few years in the FinTech sector?
A year from now cryptocurrencies will go mainstream or as I like to call it, will be hitting the “3 am news”. By 3 am news what I mean is, even third age people who don’t even know how to send a text via a smartphone will watch cheesy TV ads that say “Wanna get rich? Invest in crypto!” or something of a sort, and give them a really easy way to invest in crypto for pumped up prices. Jokes aside, cryptocurrency will hit a critical popularity point and become accessible for other demographics.
Also, I think AI is going to play a huge role in Fintech 5 years down the road. Specially Robo advisors. Thanks to that technology there will be an unprecedented cross market breakthrough.
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