Q&A with Estonia's next tech Unicorn
What does your company Change do?
Change is a cryptocurrency investing platform on a mission to build an open, borderless and accessible financial world run by the people. We’re developing the technical tools needed for people to take control of their finances. Our goal is to become the most-loved and simplest investment app for people to use everywhere.
What's the USP? Price?
Change is all about demystifying and simplifying the world of investment for everyone. Whether that’s with cryptos or more traditional assets, we’ve built an easy to use app that you can get started with from just €10. And, unlike nearly all other platforms, we don’t charge a fee on Bitcoin trades.
Critically, what sets us apart is that our community collaborates with us to grow further and develop Change. Our community consists of investors, customers and, of course, our team. We consider everyone’s input equal, and we work in tandem with our Change community to build, develop and launch new features.
How is the business performing now?
2021 has been a stellar year for Change, building on the huge surge we saw in 2020. We’re approaching 100,000 verified users with €198 million traded in Q3 - that’s more than one billion euros traded overall so far. Product revenue has grown 680% year on year (comparing Q3 2020 to Q3 2021), and we’ve now recorded more than 300,000 app installs in total.
How are you marketing Change?
At the moment, our marketing team is growing pretty quickly, which means we’ve been able to be more experimental with our approach and initiatives. As cryptocurrency is still a relatively new industry, a lot of exploration is needed to see what messages and channels work well with different groups. So far, we’ve been pairing our community’s input with our specialists’ knowledge to create fresh, new campaigns. This way, we’re able to learn and iterate faster.
As with everything we do, we want to have a personal and authentic touch - this is important for our marketing team. Whether it’s searching for the right influencers to partner with or sitting with our community to gather their feedback. For example, we created a custom set of NFTs based on the pets of our Change team, which all sold out within a day of us going live with the campaign. Our community told us they were curious about NFTs, and we were able to take action. Then, we donated what we raised to a local charity for pets in Estonia.
Our approach is validated by the fact that we’re seeing continued growth. From Q3 2020 to Q3 2021, we have ten times the number of first time traders - so it certainly seems to be working!
Change raises money via equity funding and tokens. How have you found both experiences?
It might sound obvious, but transparency and communication are the keys to raising any money - whether from private investors or via crowdfunding.
When businesses go for crowdfunding, they often make outlandish claims to secure the cash and then forget the investor community once it is safely deposited. Then, when they return to ask for more investment, their investors are rightly sceptical about committing again. That’s why it’s incredibly important to be open with what you intend to do, take on board feedback and then keep the conversation going. Your community has way more to offer than you than money alone. For us, this approach was confirmed when, in our last fundraising period, we raised €3.7M in just 48 hours. Crucially, many of our original investors also participated which is a huge vote of confidence in the Change team. So, in a nutshell, you simply have to treat all your investors - regardless of ticket size - with the respect and professionalism they deserve.
Change is unusually transparent around performance metrics. Why is this?
Our transparency goes to the heart of what we want to achieve for the financial industry. We believe in a community-driven platform that gives everyone safe and easy access to financial tools. We can’t claim to be community-driven if our community isn’t meaningfully involved and informed of what’s happening behind the Change curtain.
We also know that the industries we operate in, financial or crypto, have suffered trust issues. We want to tackle this head-on by being open - we’re trying to model the change we wish to see in the world.
When will consumers start paying for goods with cryptocurrencies?
They already are – in fact, you can even pay for a trip into space via Virgin Galactic using crypto. Or, if you’re thinking of staying more local with a couple of taps, you could use your Change card to pay for your morning cappuccino.
The real question is, when will crypto payments become mainstream? We’re undeniably moving in that direction, but the speed depends on the technology available and education. While it’s not the primary choice for everyone, it’s simply a matter of time before people get more comfortable using it in day-to-day transactions. That is one of our main goals and why we have focused on accessibility.
Transaction speeds are a hurdle we’re jumping at the moment. However, as the tech improves and industry-supporting regulations come into force, we’ll quickly find ourselves safely on the other side of that hurdle. When that happens, we should see exponential growth. By the end of the decade, I believe cryptocurrencies will be a viable, mainstream way of completing transactions.
You are from Estonia; no surprise there. Estonia is a startup hotspot. Why is this?
Estonia’s culture is geared towards embracing and fostering technology and entrepreneurship. Mix in regulations created in collaboration with industry leaders and modern infrastructure, together with our position at the heart of Europe, means we’re a great base for many tech startups. The elements combined also created a really strong sense of community and a supportive ecosystem that other, bigger countries struggle to replicate.
Are you a believer in crypto? If so, which ones have the app ecosystem to survive?
I am! However, it’s not individual coins that excite me; it’s the concept of decentralised finance or DeFi that I truly believe in. DeFi can revolutionise our financial system and supercharge social mobility. This is because cryptocurrencies move power from large financial institutions over to us - the everyday folk. Suddenly, people locked out of the global economy because of their location or other determining factors have all the access and tools they need to make their money work for them, not the other way around. For me, DeFi levels the playing field, creating opportunities that just aren’t possible with our current financial system.
What's the long-term vision for Change?
To build a borderless financial system run by the people. It’s a big mission, but together with our community, we can do it. We’re embracing the wonderful world of DeFi, and we’ll reflect that in the development of our offering. Right now, we’re in a hyper-growth phase, so we’re investing heavily in our platform, growing our community, assembling the right team and setting our sights further afield, having just recently opened a new hub in Singapore.