Humble yet energetic, and conscientious yet pragmatic, the impressions that Sascha Ragtschaa, CEO of WeOwn platform, left on us during our interview.
“Everyone is overcooking the potential of Blockchain” said Sascha while talking about how the hype around blockchain and cryptocurrencies has hurt the true potential and adoption of Blockchain and Crypto space.
He said that the bear market is only helping to weed out the bad and/or weak players so that technology can find stability and adoption.
While the public blockchains have their advantages, they are not customizable for mass adoption. Own platform has its own blockchain platform that can be customized in its functionality according to the market needs while fully carrying the trust and immutability that comes with blockchain.
With a team of 20 people and multiple locations around the world including Hong Kong, Germany, and The United States, Sascha is very confident about the security tokens, tokenization of assets and future of blockchain and hopes to grow his team to a size of 100 people by end of 2020.
That increase in people will also align with his vision for WeOwn in the space of security tokens, share registry and tokenizing assets to raise capital without having to pay out huge commissions to traditional financial institutions.
While The United States is still working on its blockchain framework, Own offers its solution platform to enterprises that already carry required permissions and licenses.
Every disruption goes through these cycles
Undeterred by the bear market, Sascha said that every technology goes through the Gartner hype cycle. “It is not an IF question, it is more of WHEN” referring to the potential of Blockchain and how businesses, governments, and people are realizing the true potential of this technology.
Yes to Blockchain, no to cryptocurrencies
Current sentiment in the enterprise world is that everyone wants to explore Blockchain technology for their businesses and they are very receptive about the ideas of implementation. However, if you even so much as mention the name of cryptocurrencies, you will be immediately boycotted. This is the misinformation and fear about cryptocurrencies in the enterprise’s circle.
During interview, Sascha states “When we talk to businesses, let’s say larger enterprises, I think the interest is definitely huge in the sense that people want to know about tokenization, they want to understand about blockchain and so you’re in the sales cycle where they are very receptive because they heard about blockchain, they understand the benefits, but they are absolutely not interested in cryptocurrencies.”
Don’t hype the STOs to the moon
Sascha thinks that the overhyping of blockchain technology coupled with extensive media coverage of inflation and bursts of cryptocurrencies has worked against cryptocurrencies.
Moon talk generally fires back.
He hopes that this bear market will stop people from moon talking the STOs. “I hope it’s not being hyped to the moon because that’s always bad,” he commented.
Our competition is not other tokenization platforms, it’s the traditional middlemen
When asked about the competition from other players in the tokenizing equity space – Sascha was quick to correct us. According to him – the competition in the tokenization space doesn’t bother him at all. Own’s focus is on capturing the services that are offered by middlemen in the traditional market.
Why not – traditional equity, capital and asset market is a multi-trillion dollar industry. Even a fraction of that industry will mean a massive business opportunity.
“The competition is with the traditional guys – competition are the stock exchanges, the registrars, the transfer agents, the clearing houses and all those kind of middleman in traditional markets. They are our competition. I don’t care about other security token or tokenization platforms. The traditional market is our focus,” says Sascha with unwavering confidence.
Work-life balance is a bigger struggle with a startup, but its needed
Sascha is no stranger to long hours, weekend travels, living out of suitcase – he has done that for more than 17 years. He was a software engineer at the age of 16 and had his first software development job at 18. He was a CIO in his twenties. Right before leaving his former role to start WeOwn, Sascha was managing teams of 500+ software developers across multiple continents.
“Startup is a 24/7/365-day job”, said Sascha with a sense of humor “but I am no stranger to such demands” he added.
Talking about the importance of striking a work-life balance – he talked about how he tries to stay away from the digital noise and finds quality time for his family. He also finds time for sports and gym. Sascha is very passionate about Basketball.
Moon talk dwindles but open markets always correct themselves
Sascha is careful about getting too hyped about the potential of Blockchain and STO space. WeOwn has managed to stay away from the hype or moon talk. Sascha believes that the open markets always correct themselves.
“I think we’re still at the early days and over the next few years, it will mature. Services will become known as the systems and products become stable and then we’re basically adding something to the economy, improving business activities and we will be improving the liquidity of illiquid assets.
We’re doing all these different things to just improve everyone’s wellbeing and improving the bottom-line for the business. I think that’s important, but I just hope it doesn’t get hyped too much.”
Below is the full transcript (edited) of the interview, if you are a blockchain and cryptocurrency aficionado – you will enjoy this conversation!
CT: Obviously, you’re very busy, so we appreciate you taking time. We think STOs are going to be the biggest thing that happened in the crypto space. So, before we get started, do you just want to give us an overview of what’s been going on since you finished your ICO and how are things progressing, beyond just a quick update?
Sascha: Things are progressing really well. We’ve done a lot in terms of software development to really build the whole ecosystem.
We are finishing all our main products. We released the TestNet from our blockchain, our test wallet, and we’re working on the finishing touches for our Fast Platform upgrade. This platform enables businesses to generate and issue tokens, invite investors, and servicing around it. You have the whole marketplace and ecosystem all available and simple to use.
We also released our Decentralized Share Register towards the end of last year. Through this, you can track and manage a financially backed asset token or security token, including changes of ownership.
We also have My Own, an investor mobile app that allows investors to participate in security tokenization. You can also see your portfolio, your holdings; everything that investor would have.
On the business development side, we’re obviously quite active in selling our services to enterprises. We’re selling our services to issue, run and manage tokenization and its procedures. It’s not just about STOs. It’s about effective transactions and an asset trade
We’re also still recruiting people, mainly engineers.
CryptoTapas: That’s great. I do have two follow-up questions, Sasha, in terms of regulations and government interference in the space – which jurisdictions are you currently working on? Do you have restrictions as to which countries you offer these services to or are you operating in all jurisdictions?
Sascha: We’ve got a global focus. To give you examples, we are looking at Hong Kong, Singapore, Southeast Asia and mainland China, the whole European economic area, and the US.
We’re incorporated in Lichtenstein, which is very, very crypto friendly and we are operating a lot in the UK. If you issue security tokens or you do anything with equity backed tokens, you need to comply with local securities laws, so you need to engage with the regulators, which we do through the FMA in Liechtenstein, which gives us EA access in the UK.
There is also the FCA in the USCF, the FCC, and then, you have a multiple in Asia. We engage and deal with all of them, partially directly and impartially indirectly through legal firms and those sorts of bodies.
CryptoTapas: In terms of SEC in the US, are you getting a relatively warm response? Or, are you hitting a wall? How has the response in the US been so far?
Sascha: In the US, we don’t do any issuances directly at the moment. We basically sell our services to enterprises – for example, private banks, broker-dealers, etc. They already have all the right licenses and all SEC engagements. However, over the next few months, we will do issuance directly with the US. It’s not just about STOs. It’s about effective transactions and an asset trade.
There’s a lot of interest around tokenization because it increases profit margins and reduces complexity. They’re already used to a clearinghouse or a registrar on these sorts of things and they would like to reduce these fees. Tokenization offers cost-saving opportunities, with speed of issuance and higher liquidity; it’s very, very interesting for enterprises.
CryptoTapas: It just seems like the blockchain, or at least the emergence of blockchain will eventually solve the problems that have been thought as impossible to solve, using a DAPP.
Sascha: Yeah. Blockchain allows you to trade without an intermediary instantaneously. Intermediaries certify that the counterparties have received the item. However, the digital footprint of blockchain technology does that for you. And that’s the exciting thing about blockchain technology.
Other than that, businesses don’t care if you’re using blockchain or anything else. They want speed, they want fewer fees and they want immediate liquidity. If you can offer that and then it’s a home run.
CryptoTapas: Do you foresee that the governments and their record keeping will be going onto blockchain and then it’ll be layered onto all the blockchains available so that public and private blockchains exchange information seamlessly to help a truly decentralized economic model?
Sascha: Absolutely. If you look at the UK, the government was the first to issue a paper on how distributed ledger technology and blockchain will improve governmental organizations and services. For example, it can track Land Registry ownership (a legal title) and ensure 100 percent accuracy.
Governments have centuries-old documentation on paper and storing paper certificates is expensive. With blockchain technology, you can digitize all of it.
It’s an immutable tamper-proof record set so it’s a huge opportunity. It is not a question of if it’s going to happen; it’s a question of when it’s going to happen.
CryptoTapas: That’s pretty interesting. I think the public awareness of blockchain, cryptocurrencies and what this technology can potentially bring forth is very limited, and part of that I think has to do with the media. Media only shows news of speculation, fraud and hype bursts. Do you think educating the public in the mainstream about the potential benefits of blockchain will change the outlook toward this technology in the future?
Sascha: Yes. I keep saying this, but everyone is overcooking the potential of the blockchain.
Yes, it is new technology. It is groundbreaking. It offers so much more, but like any new technology that comes along, it gets overhyped. I’m sure you know the Gartner hype cycle where you have overinflated expectations; we had these last year and the year before, but now we have the opposite.
The Internet went through the cycle, cloud computing went through the cycle, smartphones went through the cycle and the same thing is happening with blockchain. And the media jump on anything that creates a good story, whether it’s good or bad.
People are quite negative about blockchain in this bear market. But we will get to a phase where it’s about stability and adoption of technology.
CryptoTapas: How are you making business connections and how easy is it to convince people who have been using traditional market tools for hundreds of years? How easy is it been to convince them to move to?
Sascha: When we talk to businesses, let’s say larger enterprises, I think the interest is huge. People want to know about tokenization, they want to understand about blockchain. We’re in the sales cycle where they are very receptive because they’ve heard about blockchain, they understand the benefits, but they are not currently interested in cryptocurrencies.
I think this media and the market are doing. If you go into a business and you want to talk about cryptocurrency, the doors are shut. But if you talk about blockchain technology and actual use cases, they listen. That’s what we do. We talk about the use cases and about benefits. We don’t actually talk about blockchain as such, just mention it.
Blockchain is the underlying technology platform, but if you cannot explain to people why this platform is adding benefit to your business or to your clients, then you’ve got a problem. You have to be able to explain in simple words that you know how many transactions you can process and how a smart contract is written – this sort of stuff.
People within businesses are humans; they just want to know what problems it solves and whether they are better off with that technology or worse off.
Cryptotapas: What is your elevator pitch for WeOwn platform about the tokenization of assets or issuance of capital?
Sascha: I pitch for the services that we provide. If you are a business then you always have financing needs, right? Either you get capital through the existing markets, the traditional markets, you go to VCs, you go to banks, or you go to a fund. But you know it’s always a compromise in terms of getting funding right. It’s either privately arranged or it’s publicly sourced, but expensive and onerous.
We don’t compromise with our solution. We use our private blockchain and Own ecosystem to tokenize financial assets and we make them infinitely tradable, but also inexpensive. We’re solving a problem from a capital raising perspective that you cannot get on the existing marketplaces. That’s my pitch.
Cryptotapas: That was good. I was actually listening very intently and I’ve been really surprised even in 2018, if I have put like thousand dollars or $100 or whatever in a traditional stock investment, every time there is a change of any sort, they actually mail physical notification even though I opened it, I feel it very awkward. And to receive that kind of notification and then mail in 2008, nine. I think one of the services that you can provide is to give updates to the investors and notifications you can communicate with the investors on your platform. Right? So, I think it’s not just reducing the communication time, I think it’s also going to have a good in a good footprint on the planet as such, I think. And that, that, that was really fascinating.
Sascha: You’re creating a true digital certificate. If you’re talking about shares, you don’t need paper anymore. You have a record that is unalterable, a single source of truth, that cannot be altered by a central party and that means a lot.
Certificate contracts get constantly altered, modified, and changed, and that is a huge risk for both parties when they go into a transaction.
CryptoTapas: When you go to a traditional business, and they say, for the next round of capital we want to raise using Own platform. How do you then layer Own with the existing traditional systems? Do you create a brand new one or is there some kind of bridge that you can take their existing model to your Own brand? How does that work?
Sascha: An established business will get capital and money from multiple sources and multiple places. Right? So, for example, if you have equity and you give out 10-20 percent of the business, maybe 10 percent came from venture capitalists or private equity or some other funders, and the next 10 percent can come from the Own marketplace.
We want to be the only source where people get money from both. But, if companies want to go to a VC or a private equity network, they can.
We are complementing what’s already available, but ideally, we show people that it’s much cheaper, more liquid and quicker to get to that stage through tokenization and that usually always beats everything else.
The competition is with traditional markets – the stock exchanges, registrars, transfer agents, clearing houses and all those kinds of middlemen. I don’t care about other security token or tokenization platforms.
Cryptotapas: Does the Own platform have the ability to translate information into a standard accounting report, so that others can use it, like accountants, auditors, and government? Has it been embedded into the existing technology or is it something that’s coming depending on where you onboard the clients?
Sascha: That’s one of the key features that we have because we’re building compliance tools, reports, financial reports, and tax reports. We want to make life easier for an investor.
For example, if you invest in two or three companies through our FAST Platform, you should get an automatically generated report at the end of the year that can be submitted into their financial systems.
Some of it we have available today, some of it is on our roadmap, but ultimately, we are making everything much easier for the investors. We’re giving them the toolset, so they can comply with tax authorities and government regulations.
We want to build automated lodgments in the background so that businesses can just submit them to the tax authorities in one click. We are also trying to generate reports that you can immediately upload to government facilities, to make things easier.
CryptoTapas: How Nimble is we own platform to accommodate any changes in the regulations or changes in the law?
Sascha: The biggest advantage for us compared to other tokenization platforms is that we have our own blockchain. Any change that we want to do, we can do, because we understand the code and technology. We’re not built on theory and we are more flexible than anyone else.
Our backend is built around ownership and assets. It’s not built around smart contracts or financial assets as such. We don’t have any scalability issues because there isn’t a CryptoKitties or some casino running in the background, increasing the gas prices or grinding the network to a standstill.
Our Blockchain is built for tokens, ownership, digital equity, funds, and all supporting processes. And that is the biggest advantage we have over all the others who are using a backend that they cannot control.
CryptoTapas: Is your platform prone to 51% attack?
Sascha: No. We have a private and public component. The public blockchain manages and stores all transactions and deals, and the private component deals with the issue, investment data and information centers, including sensitive information.
We believe in full decentralization but up to only a point. We still want to remain in control of what’s happening in and around the network. We want to be able to penalize bad actors. We run the whole thing like a financial services organization.
We have financial crime reports, audits, logs, and all that information. The platform is built for enterprise scale, but also the need for law enforcement, review, and regulatory compliance.
CryptoTapas: How easy or difficult is it to find people in the space? I mean, I think you just said at the beginning that you are hiring more people, how is that going?
Sascha: It’s not easy, but it’s also not difficult.
We have a core team and they’re super engineers. They make up the heart and soul of Own. We bring on experienced people and graduates, and we have multiple locations. We recruit in the UK and Bosnia, which is our engineering and software hub in Europe.
We also have people in Munich, Germany, and we’re expanding now into Asia and into the east coast of the US. The bigger global footprint you have, the easier it is to hire people, and we’re not hung up on locations. We have people that work in an office, we have people that work remotely and a really good strong core team that can manage all of that.
If you don’t have a strong engineering core team then you’re not able to scale from an engineering and tech perspective. We know how to build great teams that build and deliver projects. We’ve been doing it for more than 17 years.
CryptoTapas: How big of a team is it right now and what is your vision for your team and global presence by 2020?
Sacha: We have about 20 people at the moment and everyone has multiple roles. Our engineers are absolutely great and they’re always going over and beyond; we can do much more than other, larger teams and we’re quite proud of that.
I think by the end of 2020, we would like to have at least 100 people. If our business is even more successful then absolutely we can recruit and hire more. But the aim is to build up the team and to really have robust areas covered.
CryptoTapas: I really appreciate you bringing that seriousness to the space Sasha and Kudos to the team.
Sascha: Thanks for the feedback. I mean, we never had a lot of hype around us. We started in 2017 and no one knew what equity backed token was or what security tokens were at that time. We’ve just basically done our thing.
We never spent much money on marketing because we wanted everything to go into software development. Getting attention is nice but at the same time can distract you. We preferred to build the services and the platform, to really hit the faith in traditional players.
We do have a strong community and get really good social media feedback. Sometimes that feedback is instant and it’s quite hard to keep the community happy, especially when things are volatile. But every one of us is having an absolute blast and we wouldn’t have wanted it to be any different.
Now we have really great supporters and people that believe in our idea and approach. It sounds cheesy, but we really want to give something back to people and that really motivates us.
CryptoTapas: Why compete for the billion-dollar market when you can compete for the multi-trillion-dollar market. Right? Before wrap up, I wanted to shift gears and talk about your personal life. I know you said you started Own in 2017, so talk to us about your personal life, what do you do outside of WeOwn? How do you find time for family and personal life? Can you talk about that a little bit?
Sascha: It’s a good question. I never get asked that and I’m actually quite pleased.
I’ve worked in enterprises for a long time. I was very young when I became a lead developer, architect and then I was a team leader. In my early twenties I was already managing the teams; at 28 years old, I was a CIO managing global development functions in Australia and overseas teams in the US, UK, and Canada. I had already had a long career. It was really, really busy, and I was traveling every week.
I thought by starting my own business I’ll have more time for my family, now that I’ve got a young son and wife. But with a startup, it’s quite a full schedule as well. I think every one of us so passionate about what we’re doing is that it’s basically 24/7 days job.
CryptoTapas: How do you stay away from your phone or how do you stay away from the digital noise when you’re spending time with family and friends? Any suggestions? Anything that works for you? Because we do want to include this as part of our articles so that people who read it to get an idea of how do you stay back because obviously for people who are as busy as you can do it, I think others can do. So. What is your take on that?
Sascha: If you asked me, my family, they would say I don’t. They will tell me “you’ll always have your phone. You’re always looking at things and all that.”
I had to learn. I mean, switching off and not letting things get to you is something you learn.
The more responsibilities you have – the more experience you get.
You have two choices.
Let it kill you OR you can effectively change your habits.
I take timeouts. I switch the phone off sometimes when I go on holiday. I haven’t been on a holiday in a long time, but when I used to go on holiday, I used to just switch off my data services simply to have my mind free.
You have to force yourself because if you don’t do – it will affect your sleep, it affects your energy levels and then you just can’t give the best of what you need to give.
I also encourage all the staff in our business to not check their phones when they’re on holiday. I know it’s tempting everyone’s on telegram and twitter, but I always keep saying to them, don’t do that. I try not to send my staff emails on the weekends and at nights. I’ve never done that in the past because it feels like, ‘oh the boss is sending me an email on Saturday, I need to immediately respond’.
You have to build these little methods to check your energy levels and then exercise. Sports help. Going for a big cycle ride or, or playing basketball with friends or going snowboarding, all help.
The biggest tip I can give is to “take a digital timeout”, otherwise it slowly wears you down and when you’re in your twenties it’s easy. You have so much energy, but the older you get, the more careful you need to be with your energy levels. It doesn’t go on forever.
CryptoTapas: Absolutely, Sasha. I have one last question: what is your vision for this STO space and I know WeOwn is broader than just STO, but what is your vision for STO space and how excited are you about the future of Own in this space?
Sascha: I’m very excited because tokenization of financial assets is becoming accepted across the industry. I hope it doesn’t get hyped to the moon because that’s always bad – that’s why we are quite careful about not being too thrilled.
Everyone writes blogs about it now and all the ICO advisors are now STO advisors, even though they have no clue. I think we’re still in the early days and over the next few years, it will mature. Services will become known, and the systems and products will become stable. Then we’re adding something to the economy, enhancing business activities and improving the liquidity of illiquid assets.
We’re doing all these different things to just improve everyone’s wellbeing and increase the bottom-line for the business. I think that’s important, but I just hope it doesn’t get hyped too much.
People learn to adapt and usually an open market always regulates itself. Just like the ICO space to cryptocurrencies and crypto communities, everything just balances out.
CryptoTapas: Absolutely amazing, Sascha. I’ve learned a lot and I am more excited than I was before this interview. I can really see and sense a conscientious leader in you. I wish you all the best for WeOwn and the space in general.
Sascha: Likewise, I wish you all the success. I like media outlets like yours; you focus on supporting the projects that are actually in it for improvement rather than just filling their own pockets. We need more guys like yourselves that are able to talk about the real use cases rather than just the hype.
I really appreciate you taking this time, Sascha, and I hope we’ll catch up later at a future date once you guys onboard some big brand names.
Thank you for reading this article.
Everything in this article is an opinion, not an advice of any kind. This material has been prepared for general informational purposes only and it is not intended to be relied upon as accounting, tax, investment, legal or other professional advice. Please consult with a professional for specific advice.
Subscribe to be notified for new updates in Crypto and Free eBooks!
Subscribers get our upcoming copy of ‘STAYING RELEVANT’, an essential primer from Cryptotapas for FREE!
Buy us a : Keep information FREE. We do not sell what we research. A small tip from you can help us bring you more content like this for FREE.
If you are thinking to open KuCoinaccount, please consider using our referral link.
About the author
RK Reddy holds two Masters degrees, one in Accounting and another in Business Administration with over 15 years of experience in the financial services industry.
RK Reddy is an ardent fan of Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies. You can see the excitement about this new technology in every article on Cryptotapas.com. Sometimes this excitement leads to an overly optimistic view. Guilty as charged. RK Reddy says “what may seem like an ‘overly optimistic expectation’ today may become an everyday norm in 5-10 years; look at the history of cars or airplanes, Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies belong to a similar frame of reference.” Of course, that is just his opinion.