Exclusive Interview of Maxim Galash of Coinchange Financials Inc.. Edited by Powered Magazine.
Maxim Galash is an innovative leader at the forefront of the digital currency revolution. With a deep understanding of blockchain technology and a relentless drive for excellence, Maxim has made significant contributions to the field of digital currency exchange as well as the broader adoption of blockchain solutions. In this exclusive interview with Powered Magazine, we have the privilege of delving into the mind of Maxim Galash. From his entrepreneurial journey and the challenges he has overcome to his insights on the future of digital currency and blockchain, we gain valuable insights into the world of digital finance and the vision that drives Maxim's innovative endeavors.
Tell us about yourself and your business.
I'm Maxim Galash, CEO of Coinchange, a prominent platform in the DeFi market that generates yield through carefully crafted quantitative and systematic strategies. These strategies are combined into diversified portfolios, each with a unique risk-reward profile. Our portfolios are distributed through direct-to-business and direct-to-consumer applications, utilising APIs for partnerships and offering separately managed accounts for our institutional clients. Additionally, we operate an OTC desk, servicing institutional clients, crypto miners, and other entities in the blockchain and payment business sectors.
My background is quite varied. I graduated from the University of Toronto as an electrical computer engineer, worked at 3G Capital, and served as a general partner at the venture fund BGS Venture LP. Afterward, I founded my own professional services agency, building apps for various clients. I also ventured into the startup realm, launching several mobile applications in the social and music industries, some of which I later sold.
After a sabbatical period spent buying crypto, my fascination with the blockchain grew, leading me to start building an online OTC. Later on, I incorporated the DeFi investment portfolio business into the operation. Today, Coinchange offers a multitude of products and service lines to our clients, who are predominantly fintech and blockchain-native businesses.
As for my education, besides my bachelor's degree from the University of Toronto, I also completed my MBA through a power MBA program.
What were your biggest challenges when starting your business?
Launching a business is a daunting task and requires courage to initiate the process. The key is to think, talk, build, and do everything related to the project. The journey often involves several core challenges.
Funding: Finding the necessary capital to get your venture off the ground is usually one of the first obstacles to overcome.
Team Building: It's crucial to assemble a team that shares your vision and is committed to realising it.
Timing: Assessing whether the market is ready for your product is vital. If the timing is off, even the best idea can struggle to take off.
Geography and clients: It's important to ensure there is a genuine demand for your product and not just a perceived one. You need to understand whether your target clients truly want what you're offering and if your chosen geographical location aligns with that demand.
Move forward one step at a time, reflect on past experiences, and seek new connections. Use your network to inspire and evaluate the market's, clients, and product's potential. This will help you make informed decisions as you navigate these challenges.
How have you handled success and failure over the course of your career?
Over the course of my career, I've experienced numerous failures. Out of five startups I launched, three didn't succeed. These failures are always difficult to process. Recognising failure and having the strength to step back and reflect rather than relentlessly trying the same approach is a real challenge. As entrepreneurs, we're often counselled to relentlessly push forward, never surrender, and persistently strive towards our objectives. However, discerning the right moment to halt, pivot, or initiate a transformation can be a delicate balance to maintain.
Every failure has been a learning opportunity for me, teaching me to recognise when the potential rewards don't justify the cost or effort or when there's simply no viable opportunity left. I've learned to identify my weaknesses and hire a team that can complement them. Delegation has been a crucial lesson. Understanding your limitations and building a team that can bridge those gaps is essential.
Knowing what you don't know is as important as knowing what you do know. It's vital to look at the market and your product objectively and to have the courage to make a change when necessary.
Choosing the right partners at the start of any venture is crucial. The business journey is often a rollercoaster, and having partners you can rely on for funding, advice, and sharing the pressures of external circumstances can make a significant difference.
These lessons have been invaluable for me, and I believe they are essential for anyone embarking on a business journey. There will always be more lessons to learn. Being open to them is key to growth and resilience.
What strategies do you use to stay competitive in a changing market?
The primary strategy I employ is straightforward: listen to your clients. Ensuring that you're in tune with their needs and feedback and integrating that into your business and product offerings is paramount.
Next, fostering a culture of constructive contradiction within your team is key. It's important not to seek unanimous agreement on every issue. Instead, encourage team members to voice their unique perspectives and reward them for doing so. This diversity of viewpoints enriches decision-making and stimulates innovation.
Third, strive to minimise bureaucracy and excessive management oversight. While essential controls in areas like finance and operations are necessary, they should not be so constrictive as to stifle creativity and impede new initiatives, product changes, or marketing campaigns. Aiming for a flatter organisational structure can help ensure a dynamic flow of ideas and feedback.
Cultivate an open and transparent feedback culture to increase agility and responsiveness in a rapidly changing market, which is essential for maintaining competitiveness.
What motivations drive you to keep pushing forward in the face of adversity?
Human motivation often arises from two primary factors: fear and pleasure. Much like anyone else, I am no exception to these driving forces.
Fear, while typically seen in a negative light, can indeed be a powerful motivator. Fear of missing out, of being last, of losing, of appearing foolish, or of not realising one's aspirations can spur relentless perseverance.
Simultaneously, the pleasure derived from overcoming challenges, satisfying clients, and fostering a happy and prosperous team provides a strong dopamine boost, which fuels motivation.
A sense of purpose in what we do is a vital source of motivation. Our work helps people earn more and encourages financial independence, giving them the freedom to decide how they want to spend their time. This contribution to our clients' lives—the ability to help them navigate towards a better, more secure future—is a deeply rewarding driver for the entire team.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out in their chosen field?
My foremost advice would be to pursue what you love and do it exceptionally well. Ensure that your chosen path is not driven solely by the desire for monetary gain or personal pleasure but rather by a harmonious blend of both. Being truly passionate about what you do is vital, as this will fuel your commitment and resilience, particularly when navigating the ups and downs inherent in a startup environment or any new venture.
So, stay passionate, love what you do, and strive for excellence. This commitment will not only bring you satisfaction but also improve your chances of success in your chosen field.
How have technological advances affected the way you conduct business/operate your venture?
The recent wave of artificial intelligence (AI) has been transformative for our business, particularly in our marketing and sales operations. We've been leveraging AI technologies, such as GPT (Generative Pretrained Transformer), for various tasks.
AI helps us generate prospect lists and identify target client profiles. With input from sales and marketing teams, AI creates extensive lists of potential prospects and curates them, obtaining contact information for key decision-makers, filtering, structuring, and categorising them.
AI is used to generate content for newsletters, blog posts, and social media content, as well as to create images and videos, complementing the work of our design and marketing teams.
AI's role in development and quantitative strategy teams is less pronounced than in human creativity and iterative processes. AI has yet to find a suitable role in integrating these methodologies into a systematic approach.
We use AI-infused systems for CRM, customer support, compliance, and fraud detection, but don't directly utilise them as we operate as clients of these service providers.
AI has revolutionised sales and marketing operations, improving efficiency and reach. We anticipate further AI integration across other areas of our business in the future.
In what ways has customer feedback/response influenced how you prioritize goals/objectives for your business/venture?
Customer feedback is essential for our product development and business strategy. We listen closely to our customers and adjust our product roadmap based on their needs and responses. We also take into account market research, management decisions, and overall market conditions, but customer feedback holds the highest degree of influence in shaping our goals and objectives.
Our business has changed from a predominantly retail-focused business to a B2B-focused one due to customer feedback. We noticed that our B2B clients were more engaged with the platform, requesting more features, and generally showing higher account balances. We are investing more heavily in our B2B platform, sales channels, and operations while still maintaining our retail offering.
In essence, customer feedback plays a crucial role in determining the direction of our product development, market approach, and overall business objectives. It's an invaluable tool that enables us to align our goals with the needs of our most engaged and valuable customers.
What trends do you see emerging in your industry that are likely to shape its future growth and development?
There are several emerging trends in our industry that I believe are going to shape its future development and growth significantly.
Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs): NFTs are having a tremendous impact not just in art and collectibles but also in digital applications like gaming. For instance, platforms like Sorare allow users to collect and trade NFT cards, build their sports teams, and compete online. It's a fascinating blend of gamification and blockchain technology that brings new levels of transparency and engagement.
Decentralised Finance (DeFi): DeFi, which essentially takes intermediaries out of financial transactions, is another transformative trend. It promotes peer-to-peer transactions, scalability, and personal control over financial activities. Moreover, participation in DeFi markets can be rewarding, with many platforms providing returns for engagement.
Security Tokens: The rise of security tokens is another notable trend. These tokens allow for the securitization of virtually any asset, from real estate and cars to jewellery and mines. This process enables fractional ownership, allowing anyone in the world to purchase these tokens and gain exposure to the revenue, dividends, and potential appreciation of the underlying asset.
These trends are creating new and exciting opportunities in the crypto and Web3 landscapes. As a leading yield optimisation platform in the DeFi space, we are actively participating in these trends. We act as an asset manager, offering both custodial and non-custodial ways for our clients to earn in these evolving markets.
What have been the most rewarding and difficult aspects of your chosen career/business path?
One of the most challenging aspects of my career path has been making pivotal decisions that significantly impact the direction of the business. For instance, when we decided to shift our focus from B2C to B2B, it required an extensive restructuring of our business, which was certainly a difficult endeavour. We had to reduce our operational expenses, let go of some of our employees, reorient our marketing and sales strategies, and reassess our overall positioning. The process of letting people go was particularly tough, but it was necessary for the sustainability of the business.
As for the most rewarding aspects, nothing can replace the exhilaration of achieving key milestones. When we started seeing our first clients sign up, generating our initial revenue, reaching the first million in deposits, or acquiring our first thousand clients, these were truly exciting moments. Seeing the tangible impact of our hard work and the value we were creating for real users provided immense motivation and fulfilment for the team and me.
Ultimately, it's the balance of these challenging and rewarding experiences that forms the essence of entrepreneurship and makes the journey worthwhile.
Are there any skills or areas of expertise that you think are essential for success in your field?
Absolutely. Staying ahead in a rapidly evolving field like cryptocurrency requires a unique blend of skills and attributes. Here are some key areas of expertise that are particularly essential:
Research and Analysis Skills: With new protocols, tokens, and blockchain technologies constantly emerging, it's critical to have strong research and analytical skills. This helps to understand the utility, risks, and real value behind every new financial product introduced in the market.
Technical Understanding: A background in mathematics or engineering can be highly beneficial. This provides the ability to synthesise and interpret complex data effectively, which is necessary to make informed decisions in this technical and often complex field.
Adaptability: Given the fast-paced nature of the cryptocurrency industry, being able to quickly adapt to changing circumstances is vital. This includes the ability to pivot, offer new services, and adjust your approach based on market evaluation and reflection.
Strategic Thinking: Strategic decision-making skills are also essential. This involves synthesising information from a variety of sources, assessing potential risks and opportunities, and making informed decisions that align with your broader business objectives.
Industry Knowledge: Lastly, a deep understanding of blockchain technology and cryptocurrency markets is a given. This includes knowledge of different cryptocurrencies, an understanding of blockchain protocols, smart contracts, and decentralised finance (DeFi) trends.
These skills, when combined with a passion for the field and a willingness to stay updated with the latest developments, can help drive success in the cryptocurrency industry.
How has working remotely or online impacted your business/venture over the past year?
Operating remotely has indeed affected our business, but it's been mostly a positive experience for us. Being remote-first, we were ahead of the curve when the pandemic began, as we were already well accustomed to working from home.
The challenges lie in fostering a sense of unity and shared culture when everyone is dispersed. To maintain this, we conduct regular stand-ups where the team can catch up, and I make myself readily available to anyone who needs assistance or guidance.
Additionally, we face the challenge of ensuring everyone is aligned with our vision and has a clear understanding of their responsibilities. This comes down to open communication, setting clear expectations, and trust.
The beauty of remote work is the flexibility it offers everyone on the team. We can cast a wider net in terms of talent and skills because we're not restricted to one geographical location. This has helped us form a diverse, talented team, all working together to drive the business forward.
There is a learning curve to managing remote teams effectively, but with the right tools, clear communication, and a strong culture, we've found it to be a rewarding experience.
What tips would you like to offer to others who are in a similar position to you but looking to take their careers/business further?
First and foremost, always maintain honesty with yourself. Understand where you are and what you're capable of, and don't let biases cloud your judgement. Knowing your starting point is crucial to planning your journey.
Second, don't let optimism make you underestimate the challenges. Projects often take more time and resources than initially estimated. It's vital to account for this in your planning.
Third, always have a plan and backup plans. The ability to adapt and pivot is crucial, especially in a fast-paced, dynamic environment. Things don't always go according to plan, so having alternatives ready can save you a lot of stress.
Fourth, maintain a healthy level of paranoia. This might sound strange, but in a competitive business landscape, it's vital to stay on your toes, continuously thinking about how you can improve, stay ahead, and outperform your competition.
Lastly, ensure you surround yourself with the right people. Building a team that complements your skills and shares your vision is vital. It's equally important to incentivize them appropriately to ensure their dedication and commitment to your shared goals.
These are some broad pieces of advice that have served me well, and I believe they can be useful for anyone looking to advance in their careers or business ventures.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers that we haven’t already discussed?
Absolutely. There are a few more points I'd love to highlight. Our business operates within the realm of decentralised finance (DeFi); we employ a systematic, quantitative approach to asset management. Our platform specialises in optimising yield, and we've developed several robust portfolios.
If anyone is interested in exploring DeFi investment products, I would highly recommend checking out what we have to offer. We're also open to collaborations, so if you have a DeFi or yield product that you think would fit well with our platform, please don't hesitate to get in touch.
Additionally, for those of you who may have idle cash sitting around and want to see it work more effectively for you, our separately managed accounts (SMAs) could be an excellent solution. We're always eager to work with new partners and clients.
Thank you for this opportunity to share our work. We're excited to connect with those interested in DeFi, yield optimisation, and overall financial growth. I look forward to potential future collaborations. Be the change; yield the impossible!