If you believe that the value of cryptocurrency goes beyond just speculative trading and that it has the power to bring about the true freedom of ownership, then you share the same philosophy as Dato Joey, CSO, and Sylvester Lee, CTO – the founders of Fiii – a company that is currently developing a payment and exchange ecosystem. We’re interviewing them today to find out how their company started after watching Warren Buffett give a statement on TV, why their technical team worked endlessly to build the product and deploy a beta version, and why they decided to run a business where people love them, instead of leaning towards profits just like every other company in the financial world!
Nice to meet you, Dato Joey! It seems like you have quite a history on your shoulders. So what has led you to the field of blockchain-related projects? Could you share some of your past experiences?
Dato Joey: I started my first startup a decade ago in Shenzhen, China, where we ran membership points and a card system; the company and system was called “Royale-Money.” With the help of an agent, I managed to sell the whole business model to Dubai where they called it “vice-versa membership.”
Then this experience led us into another level of IT, where we began another startup called “Treatwo.” We started to develop our own apps that allow users and merchants to interact and collect “food vouchers” on a map interface. Users and merchants can contribute food vouchers for the poor and those in need, and in return they need to use the Treatwo app as a mobile payment gateway.
But unfortunately, we failed because during 2014, China turned into in a warzone of mobile payment gateway services. Tens of thousands of startups involved in mobile payment entered this battle royale, yet only two survived – Wechat Pay and Alipay. While Treatwo was among the fallen, we are still proud of overcoming this harsh experience.
Yet at the same time, we still ran another startup that was involved with wearable Bluetooth devices, called “Veyblue Technology.” We are manufacturing and designing Bluetooth headsets and smartwatches that have long-lasting batteries.
Even though most of our companies have failed, it has given us enough of an understanding to know what we were capable of. Thus, we focused our efforts on Fiiipay, which was founded in 2015. Now we’re making efforts to turn it into a successful blockchain-based IT company.
Mr. Lee, could you tell us more about your team? There are not a lot of people involved, but it seems like they can compensate for that fact with their proficiency. We also noticed you’re involved with an ongoing recruitment company. Are you going to get even bigger?
Sylvester Lee: My technical team was formed two years ago to work on FiiiPay, which only had four staff members who are API, Android, and iOS developers. I am a full-stack developer myself, who can cover most of the work from coding to testing to deployment to infrastructure. We faced challenges to acquire digital wallet licenses at the time because FiiiPay was originally designed as a multicurrency, fiat-only digital wallet until the end of last year when we gave up on the idea and switched our model to a multi-cryptocurrency one, due to it still being considered a grey area and not well regulated yet. Furthermore, we see a lot of demand for it coming up in the future.
We are getting bigger over time due to the fact that market demand is high. Coin owners are looking for us to collaborate by putting their coin up on our platform to circulate in the market. So we need to keep our product up to date as much as possible and as fast as we can to keep up with the hype.
Information about your project is really scarce, so Silvester’s blog was one of our primary sources. Why is your presence on the Internet so thin? Does this have some relation to other projects?
Sylvester Lee: Due to the fact that blockchain technology is so new and not easily understood by the non-techie person, the PR and marketing teams need time to learn and pick up the pace with the IT and product team. The fiat-to-crypto switchover strategy was executed at the end of last year. I picked up blockchain knowledge as quickly as I could, at the same time providing training and sharing knowledge with the team. We had the marketing survey, hardware design, manufacturer sourcing, app design, and system requirements completed by March. The technical team rushed through days and nights to build the product and deploy the beta version on May 1st, 2018. We officially released our 1.0 version on June 1st, 2018. We were competing with time in an attempt to enter the market as soon as possible. Whatever we can think of, others would have thought the same.
Eventually, the project information became scarce, and the only source of information is from me, and I have very little time to explain things to the PR and marketing team since I have to attend events, train my staff, overlook the entire technical team’s progress, manage the system architecture and security, and meet clients. Therefore, I can only rely on writing blogs to express my ideas.
What could you tell us about FiiiLab? Is this a part of a much grander establishment?
Dato Joey: FiiiLab is dedicated to launch a series of blockchain-based IT products, including Solutions as a Service (SaaS), hardware such as cell phones, point-of-sale terminals, Wi-Fi routers, ATM machines, and business information solutions. In short, we hope to build a “Xiaomi” + “Alibaba” company on the blockchain.
FiiiPay is an essential cryptocurrency wallet. So being a commercial project, what are your main potential sources for generating revenue?
Dato Joey: We will gain our revenue from multiple sources of income:
• First and foremost, the transaction fees. According to our projections, in the year 2020, transaction fees will generate as high as 50 million dollars of profits per year.
• Second, selling Point-of-Sale terminal machines.
• Third, blockchain Solution as a Service will generate a huge profit every year for Fiii.
Not to mention that as a merchant-based IT company discounts, marginal profits, and advertising fees will also be one of our greatest revenues.
Sylvester Lee: FiiiCoin is a cryptocurrency that supports our entire payment (FiiiPay/FiiiPOS) and exchange (FiiiEx) ecosystem, while at the same time solving the common high-volatility issue faced by other cryptocurrencies. We believe that a cryptocurrency is useless if it has no application to any business model. We control the volatility by circulating our coin on the market by attracting merchants to willingly accept FiiiCoin and let the users willingly pay with FiiiCoin. We give free transaction fees to the merchant who uses FiiiCoin for transactions, we enforce collecting transaction fees in FiiiCoin if merchants or users transact using another cryptocurrency. For example, merchants receive payment in Bitcoin and we will collect the transaction fee in FiiiCoin (real-time exchange of Bitcoin to FiiiPay). Furthermore, FiiiCoin can only be mined with a FiiiPOS terminal; this further controls the supply of the FiiiCoin and prevents FiiiCoin being dumped to the market, causing a crash. The entire ecosystem and model will create a lot of demand for FiiiCoin.
While checking the information around the project we’ve noticed that Chinese-based sources constitute a majority of them. Does this mean that the Chinese market could be considered your primary target?
Sylvester Lee: The staff in China is not proficient in English, it is just temporary. We are targeting an international market. We will change over time when our team gets bigger and has the right people.
There are FiiiPOS services that go hand in hand with FiiiPay. What is the basic idea with this business model? Do you already have some success with its implementation?
Dato Joey: We founded the whole business idea of FiiiPOS when we found out that Warren Buffett gave a statement on TV, “I will never ever buy Bitcoin,” in mid 2016. As a devout crypto lover, it was hard for us to understand why one of the world’s richest person would say that until we came to realize that the truth is that 95% of cryptocurrency values are totally based on speculation trading. That’s why only 50 million people in the world participate in the blockchain industry. If we want to created more crypto lovers, the easiest way is to show them that you can buy your morning coffee using crypto. Why do you love cash? Because it buys you a Rolex. If Bitcoin buys you a Rolex, you will love Bitcoin, too. It’s not at all about how the cash and money works in the financial world, nobody cares that!
Now, let’s get down to business. We probably can’t avoid the “chicken and the egg” question. The business can’t work without a consistent customer base, but customers won’t come without that business support. How are you going to attract them both?
Dato Joey: It’s very simple. It’s because there is 0.5% of the world’s population who are crypto lovers! We just happen to have the right timing when doing the right business. Think about it another way; what will an existing Bitcoin holder do if he or she can find a Starbucks that accepts it? If your answer is ”buy something there” then that’s not the correct answer! This person will just share information with the Internet community so they can look into this rarity. So, while there are a lot of eggs that can hatch into full-fledged crypto users , the lack of a developed “chicken” is obvious. What the blockchain community needs is to attract more of these “chickens,” and then the true magic will happen.
Sylvester Lee: There is a hidden business model that goes unnoticed by most people. FiiiPay users are only willing to use it when they see a lot of FiiiPOS merchants available everywhere. During the beginning stages, when we do not have much traction, we rely on the collaborating coin owners from different backgrounds and business networks to combine all of their merchant networks into one to form a large merchant alliance. The number of merchants to join our platform will grow exponentially. Merchants will be willing to purchase the FiiiPOS because it can mine FiiiCoin. The earlier you get FiiiPOS, the earlier and the more you can mine FiiiCoin.
According to the milestone of the Fiii project, it seems that it all started back in 2011 and plans to go all the way into 2019. What gives you the basis for that confidence to move on?
Dato Joey: The founder, my partner Sylvester Lee Seng Liang, and I both have a strong business philosophy: never run a business where people need to pay you, but run a business where the people will love you. Both make you rich, but the second one makes you proud! So we are always looking at some business ideas on how we can solve the problems of daily life. That is what makes us strong.
Mr. Lee, we have also heard about the C# based FiiiChain – your homebrew customizable blockchain code. Why use your own? Does it have some advantages over others? Are you planning to limit it to internal use only or to monetize it somehow?
Sylvester Lee: We are software engineers. We learn about Bitcoin, we study the ins and outs of it, and then we discover that the blockchain is not a difficult technology to learn about. We decided to rebuild the whole thing with the programming language that we are the most familiar with. Bitcoin is coded in C++, and it is considered as a lower level of a high-level programming language; the code is hard to read and modify. We want to save cost and time by reusing the existing developer resources that are already available within the company, instead of hiring new C++ developers. C# originated from Microsoft and has cross-platform support at zero cost. We built the project with one-time coding and then deployed it to multiple platforms like Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android. It is also IoT friendly.
You will find a large cryptography library available in the .NET Framework that is used in Bitcoin, like SHA256 and ECSDA. Instead of rebuilding the wheel or using the open source code which may have bugs, we used the existing library that was already made by an enterprise (Microsoft) with a proven record.
We all know that time is money, and we have our customizable blockchain code to allow us to build a new blockchain application very quickly with minor effort. We can control the development costs to maximize profit.
Also, the blockchain code that we built is fully customizable and easy to shapeshift into any business model. We are not limited to keeping a ledger on a block. We can customize it so it keeps tracking the state of the data. Let businesses decide whether to run a public, private, or consortium chain. It can also be a multi-chain system. The smart contract feature can be optional, and if required, we have a plan to make smart contracts easy to code and execute by relying on Microsoft’s Intermediate Language (MSIL) runtime compiler.
It is true that the digital wallet market is overflowing with a supply of platforms and that there are a lot of well-established projects out there. How are you going to compete with them?
Sylvester Lee: We discovered that the majority of the digital wallets out there are into fiat currency transactions, so we created FiiiPay for a different aspect that focuses only on cryptocurrency. Furthermore, we have FiiiPOS – the multi-cryptocurrency POS terminal that the market does not currently have a lot of. We do not actually want to compete with them, we hope to collaborate with them. Therefore, expect us to have a FiiiGateway real soon – a multi-cryptocurrency payment gateway like PayPal, Stripe, Braintree, CyberSource, etc. We would like to open up an additional payment option to the existing digital wallets to enable cryptocurrency transactions. It is a non-zero sum game for everyone in the industry.
While competition is not a problem, the question of demand is still present. Those companies mentioned before might actually develop some services of their own that may render your company unnecessary. It, of course, could be true unless you have some advantages that allow you to outsmart the market. Do you have some of them up your sleeve that you’d like to mention? And overall, how fast are improvements in this industry being created?
Sylvester Lee: We foresee that the payment industry in cryptocurrency will not last long because old players are rising to overtake us soon due to their strong financial background and existing trade network. Therefore, FiiiChain is the only way to outsmart the market. We provide blockchain training, consultations, and software development services to a market that wishes to build decentralized applications. Today’s critical problem in the blockchain world is the lack of talent. FiiiChain is capable of building decentralized applications quickly, letting companies reuse existing development resources and improve the blockchain learning curve. We are providing “Blockchain as a Service” to solve the talent shortage problem and create more flexibility to help traditional businesses adopt blockchain technology.
We checked out the FiiiPay app on the App Store and Google Play. It still does not seem to be that popular yet. Is this due to its recent appearance? Do you have plans to remedy this situation?
Dato Joey: Yes. We are currently still in beta, and once we launch our stable version we will host a series of marketing campaigns to promote FiiiPay. We’ll have a referral program, free Fiii candy, a crypto carnival, and a whole lot more. We are going to start very soon.
Are investments still a thing for commercial projects? What kind of money sources do blockchain projects have, excluding crowdfunding? Do you have a serious investor base behind you?
Dato Joey: I’m running some traditional businesses and investments to ensure the sustainable growth of our Fiii. Throughout these years, and without getting outside investors, I already invested more than 10 million USD. But when the blockchain idea came in, we managed to get a few angel investors who put in millions of dollars.
Dato Joey, what can you say about the future of payment services? Are they going to become more ubiquitous with the “there can be only one” motto, or will this kind of modern diversity continue? What do you think?
Dato Joey: First, as a blockchain believer, I strongly believe that cryptocurrency will last forever, or for a very long time at the very least. The more advanced human beings become, the smarter and the more ambitious we are going be. Whenever I go on stage, I always tell the audience that no government in the world can destroy cryptocurrency because it cannot be controlled by any financial institutes or government; its true freedom, the freedom to own, the freedom to trust one another, all without any influence or authority. As long as there is the desire for seeking freedom, there will be the blockchain.
What kind of resources do you use to keep yourself up to date with all the blockchain advancements taking place today? Could you share them with our readers?
Sylvester Lee: I read a lot of white papers from different projects and rely on reading news on chaindd.com – a Chinese blockchain news source – and I receive updates from friends who share the same blockchain interests on LinkedIn. If you’re a techie like me, I would recommend that you read “Mastering Bitcoin – Programming The Open Blockchain” 2nd edition, written by Andreas M. Antonopoulos.