Starting from a crypto mining hobby in 2015, Norman Wooding (28) is now one of Europe’s most successful finance entrepreneurs under 30.
His Switzerland-based crypto trading company SCRYPT processes billions for over a hundred institutional clients.
DailyCoin talked to the crypto entrepreneur about his career path, the evolution of the cryptocurrency market, and sought his insights on where it is headed.
From Basement Trader to Forbes 30 Under 30 Entrepreneur
Wooding’s first encounter with digital currencies happened in university when he bought his first ASIC miners. The economics and politics student discovered a new hobby that soon piqued his interest.
Being an early adopter of crypto, he later taught a cryptocurrency course at the London School of Economics, experimented with arbitrage trading, became involved with DeFi, and hosted up masternodes until moving from academia to entrepreneurship four years later.
“I’ve been trading crypto since 2015. Back in the day, I could only really trade Bitcoin. And if I wanted to buy more than one, I would pay an exorbitant fee.
There was no user interface or API. There was a lack of trust from regulated counterparties, a lack of standardization of processes and compliance, there was little to no liquidity. There was a high amount of slippage. There was no capital efficiency, no risk mitigation, and there was a small trading universe,” says Wooding.
Realizing that institutional clients face the same problems, Wooding and his business partner Sylvan Martin co-founded SCRYPT in 2019.
“When we initially started SCRYPT, we wanted to do a plethora of ideas, but we had no funding. We decided to focus on “a core nucleus.” That was trading. It started with two of us in a basement manually trading,” states the entrepreneur.
He explains how the business gradually evolved to complementary services like custody yield and treasury management.
“Like any startup, we tried to be a solution to a problem,” says the CEO of SCRYPT. “Now we’re able to process billions in volume and hundreds of thousands of transactions daily, and we have around 120 institutional clients.”
In 2023 both Norman Wooding and Sylvan Martin were recognized by Forbes as Europe’s most successful finance entrepreneurs under the age of 30.
“I see it as a great validation or recognition of what SCRYPT has built and the entire team effort and added value,” he says, adding that the title has changed absolutely nothing.
“I was happy for 10 seconds. Then you move on. It doesn’t add too much to your life, don’t let it get to your head. Look at who else has been on Forbes. It’s Sam from FTX. SVB was voted as one of the top 40 banks about two months before it collapsed. And Elizabeth Holmes, who did that billion-dollar blood sampling fiasco.”
He jokes that “Forbes can often signal your demise as much as it can signal your rights. So it doesn’t mean too much.”
Fundamentals Instead of Show Offs
According to Wooding, the landscape of the cryptocurrency market has changed substantially since the early days of his company, especially in the past year.
“A couple of years ago, you were competing on PR, fluff, marketing, buzz, and nonsense. Now it seems that you’re competing to survive.”
The competitive landscape in crypto is no longer the Wild West after the contagion from Celsius to 3AC, Babel Finance, BlockFi, and FTX, says Wooding.
“The industry is now less focused on leverage on the collateralized loans, YOLO trading, and more on the quality of the service, and the trust of the counterparty. The competitive landscape has changed from showing off to having strong fundamentals,” he explains.
The entrepreneur admits that the entering of prominent TradFi players like BlackRock, Julius Baer, JPMorgan, BNY Mellon, State Street, and Fidelity changed the crypto space. Wooding said their business models brought more regulation, clarity, infrastructure, and more players and validation.
However, he says the latest crashes of two crypto-friendly US banks, Silvergate and Signature bank, have set the industry back around five years.
“I have a lot of negative things to say about the FED, how they do things, why they have bailed out SVB when they had terrible risk management, inflation, interest rates, quantitive easing,” states Wooding.
He believes capitalism is a massive debt bubble, and bailing out banks will not solve the underlying economics.
“I can imagine existing large TradFi banks see this as an opportunity to acquire market share, they were quite jealous of how Signature Bank was doing, perhaps, or how somebody was doing.
I don’t know if they had a hand in it failing or if they just watched it fail. But I would say our existing institutional client base is not content.”
Institutions Haven’t Lost Interest
Despite the ongoing drama, institutional clients are interested in digital currencies and will find new crypto-friendly banks, claims the CEO of SCRYPT.
“If you scale out, the industry is still promising the sole adoption. There’s still growth. Every major institution, if they’re not involved in crypto assets or financial instruments, they’re involved in the underlying blockchain infrastructure.”
According to him, crypto started without the belief in investment from TradFi institutions. Still, it has grown since, and it will continue to grow. “Look at any major institution, central bank, or government. They’re involved in crypto in some way.”
He also advises not to get caught making sweeping statements like JPMorgan or Jamie Dimon, who often distance themselves from digital assets and launch crypto products later.
“I don’t believe anything they say is what they think. I think they’re manipulating. So if they distance themselves, we just keep building. Our industry would be too weak if we relied on a few key players in their endorsement.”
Self-Custody and Return to Competency is the Future
The entrepreneur does not doubt that the interest and demand from institutional clients are here.
However, he believes the industry needs trusted counterparties, regulation, accountability, corporate governance, and audits to evolve and attract bigger capital.
“The technology is definitely there. We need more integral partnerships of infrastructure, which is the likes of banks cooperating with crypto native companies to access the asset class.
We need regulatory clarity, and standardization of law, so you can’t have one jurisdiction conflicting with another. You need everyone to shut up, get along, sit at the same table and speak to each other,” says Wooding.
He further names self-custody and the ability to trade without giving up ownership of assets as one of the positive outcomes that should help to reduce risk when dealing with counterparties and, thus, help the market grow.
You can use your Metamask or your self-custody solution, connect it to the trading platform, trade, and then a smart contract will eat up the funds after your trade. You control your assets.”
Crypto exchanges require sent funds before allowing users to trade.
“SVB, a FED bailout, Signature, Silvergate crashing highlights that banks aren’t safe. It’s not your money when you give it to them.
When you use a self-custody solution, use crypto, when you own your private key, it’s your money. No one can take it away.”
Wooding further expects the crypto space to eventually concentrate on communication and content, actual debates, rather than PR.
“I want to see a return to competency, content, and substance rather than euphoria hype and sponsoring Formula One.”
The 28-year-old entrepreneur believes that crypto, blockchain, big data, and AI are the industries with the most potential for disruption and growth. “That’s why I do it because I do believe it.”
“I want to see a shift or a paradigm away from the center-periphery model where a few control a lot, and I think crypto is the first step or at least one of the building blocks in that.”
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