Ross Carter-Brown| Founder of BitPrime

Introduction

Success leaves clues

Finance Strategists sat down with Ross Carter-Brown of BitPrime. He shared his thoughts on the past, present, and future of the company, as well as insight gained from running the business.

Who is Ross Carter-Brown?

Q. Who are you and what’s your background?

I’m from Christchurch, the South Island of New Zealand. I grew up in Christchurch, and I went overseas when I was about 20, where I spent a couple of years. Following that, I returned to spend some time living in different parts of New Zealand before I started University.

My studies included completing a Bachelor of Science with a major in ecology and soil science. I started a research-based master’s degree but by that stage was already heavily involved in cryptocurrencies and Bitcoin. Crypto changed from being a hobby into something more serious quite quickly.

Eventually, I was earning more from my “hobby” than I would have to continue my chosen career path in the sciences and biological sciences. At that point, I took a big risk and left my masters partway through to launch Bitprime. So in short, my background is educationally more in the sciences, ecology, and science chemistry. But I’ve been involved in crypto since about 2014.

Q. Who has been your biggest influence, and why did they have such a significant effect on you?

I’ve always sort of believed in the saying, “Listen to everyone but follow no one.” I do read widely. I have done this all my life. Everything, you know, in terms of nonfiction – psychology, economics, personal finance, history, classics, all sorts of things.

So there have certainly been lots of different people throughout my life that I’ve drawn on their beliefs in my experience. It would be hard to pick any one particular person that’s had a lot of influence. If I was to pick one, I would probably say the Buddha.

I’ve always followed and researched a lot of philosophy from a secular standpoint. Also, I’m a big believer in understanding the mind or understanding yourself because if you can’t master the self, you can’t really master anything else. So that would be a big underpinning of my worldview or understanding of reality.

I’ve certainly followed a lot of different people in the business world, particularly around productivity. I mean, there are some good books out there like Deep Work by Cal Newport.

I also follow a wide range of different writers on business and entrepreneurial topics. Like a lot of stuff from the Harvard Business Review, for example. I suppose one person from a business perspective I can think of might be Derek Sivers, whom you could almost describe as a bit of a digital nomad these days, but he was the founder of CD Baby, way back when, and he sold it for a decent chunk of money.

I think he donated most of it, well, put most of it into a charitable foundation to be used for supporting the arts, particularly music, when he dies. He owns very little and travels a lot. I think he sees the world very clearly for what it is and that, while money obviously gives you a lot of options, it’s not the answer to the big questions in terms of the secret to happiness.

Gratitude is a big part of happiness, but one of the key areas that I’ve learned from him is that business can be very simple, in many respects. You simply have to identify your key market and give those people what they want.

There are quite a few other people, but I read so much and follow so many different people, I wouldn’t say that there are many that I follow in an organized way. I tend to go through phases where I’ll spend a few months on economics or psychology or something or other. More recently I’ve focused society from a scientific perspective, particularly around climate change and how those effects are inevitable.

And even if we did everything we could now there will still be huge issues to deal with from an environmental perspective, which underpins our entire economy. Probably the latest book I’ve read is called Dirt. I hate the name because it’s not dirt, it’s soil. It follows the whole story of soil and how it underpins all of human civilization.

The interesting part to me is how the various different previous civilizations, such as the Romans, witnessed the collapse of their entire society due to the destruction of natural capital, specifically soil and soil erosion, which is becoming a much bigger problem again now in both developed and underdeveloped economies.

So, yeah, I read very, very broadly. And in many respects, I take a lot of inspiration, or a lot of my ideas that feed into the business even come from places like the world of fiction. In novels and fiction, the writer can create entire worlds driven by their own particular desire and choices.

It’s kind of like a model for experimenting with different ideas and thinking about the world in different ways. I’ve certainly drawn some quite successful ideas from the world of fiction before. So, generally speaking, I get information and knowledge from a wide variety of sources and I pick and glean and adapt on concepts and information that can be beneficial in the business world and to Bitprime.

Business 

Q. What is BitPrime?

BitPrime is a New Zealand-based cryptocurrency retailer. Trading with us is more secure because you are buying from our reserves. We are different from an exchange or a brokerage because you hold your own coins, not us. We are particularly passionate about offering personalized service with a strong focus on education and support.

Q. What makes BitPrime stand out from its competitors? What led you to start BitPrime?

(see the answer to 1.)

Q. Knowing what you know now, what would you have told yourself when you were just starting out?

That’s difficult to answer in the sense that I sort of learned everything, you know, my craft, you know, by navigating on my own. I mean, I owned businesses prior to Bitprime, but they were all on a small scale and weren’t in the financial services industry. So I guess there would be many things that I would tell myself on day one when launched in 2017.

I would have perhaps been more conservative. We grew very quickly at the end of 2017, you know, from one person to over 20, acquired a big office in Christchurch, and things like that.

Obviously, then there was the market crash followed by two years of contraction with the crypto winter. So I probably would have been more conservative in the early days. And I also probably would have started mapping out the platform at a much earlier stage.

We went through this evolution of adding features as quickly as we could, as they were required. But trying to keep up with the demand from one day to the next, because the market was just insane, it was going crazy, we really struggled to keep up with demand. So, I would think that I would have mapped out the platform, the framework that it runs on and such things much sooner.

Now we’re dealing with the after-effects of there being a much more costly effort to improve the site thanks to more legacy system issues. So yeah, I definitely would have placed a bigger focus on the development roadmap early on.

I think those would be the two key things – growing too quickly in the early days and not having an effective development roadmap in the early days.

There are other things I think we’ve done really well. Other New Zealand providers have failed for various reasons. Sometimes it’s because they didn’t have access to banking services. In other cases, it’s because they expanded into international markets too early. Or perhaps those markets they expanded to were already saturated and they ended up spread too thin. So in some respects, keeping to the New Zealand market earlier on was probably a very good decision.

Q. What has the experience of building/growing the business taught you?

The biggest thing it’s taught me is that often the impossible is possible. I think it’s the key difference between businesses that stay small and local and those that achieve success on the international stage.

I think it’s realizing that things that seem challenging or insurmountable can often be overcome. So I think having that can-do attitude – though not the blind sort – is critical. You should find happiness by the headlong charge into a challenge.

IT has to be supported by a deep understanding of your product and market. Also, there needs to be skill in predicting potential future events, changes in technology, and changes in consumer demand. Ultimately, you have to try and predict the future somewhat and place bets on where you think the market is heading.

Q. Where do you see things headed for you in the next five years? Other future projects, the future for BitPrime, family, retirement, etc.

Well, I guess I should frame that within where I think the industry is going. I think the industry is getting more embedded or more connected to traditional financial markets. So I think we’re gonna see a time in the near future where you can use your phone to pay for items like you can now, buy things through Google Pay and Apple Pay and things like that.

But rather than just being able to pay with the New Zealand dollars in your bank account, you’ll be able to pay with any digital asset of your choosing. And the retailer will receive payment in whatever form of value of their choosing. It should be frictionless and happen in fractions of a second.

So it’ll be a big shift away from where we are with traditional banking – we can’t move funds on the weekend and public holidays and all that sort of rubbish. It’ll force changes in the banking industry to potentially leverage more blockchain technology to move towards moving the direction of real-time settlements.

I think we’ll see more tokenization of traditional assets. So that’s taking an asset and then turning it into a token. It could be something like a house. Say you can’t afford to buy a house in this crazy housing market we have in New Zealand right now. It might be the case of where you have a group of friends or work colleagues go in together to buy a property or properties.

The property would take the form of tokens that are readily tradable. This means that people could get on the property ladder by purchasing properties as a group for example. I see big changes in the insurance industry and digital identity and intellectual property. All these areas are moving towards leveraging blockchain technology.

So where BitPrime fits into that – we operate as a financial service provider, providing trading services. In five years’ time, I see we will be heavily embedded in the premium end of the market. We’ll be providing personalized sorts of trading services through our OTC desk but also probably will move into managed funds and other investment products that include baskets of different cryptocurrencies.

This effectively makes it easier for investors to access the cryptocurrency market through diverse financial products. The biggest risk to a crypto investor isn’t having their coins stolen but rather losing access to them. In five years, we would expect to have a world-class insured, cold custody, product available for our premium customers.

Add to that a variety of different portfolio management services, whether that will be through their personal account manager or offering those asset bundles and managed fund offerings as well. That being said, a lot can happen in five years. There will almost certainly be other opportunities or unexpected changes.

I also expect that we’ll be a leader on that on the global stage in terms of services to the boutique end of the market. And with that custody offering we see that having cold storage with full insurance, based in New Zealand, as being very attractive for international business people, family offices, and so forth.

Because of New Zealand’s low corruption, strong personal property protections, and relatively stable economy, we’d expect that New Zealand’s reputation as a safe haven will continue, especially in the eyes of people who live in countries with a higher level of corruption or struggling with autocratic governments and things like that. We see those sort of Western democracies that are highly regarded as being popular places to do business and store assets.

For more information, visit bitprime.co.nz