Episode 126: The largest bitcoin exchange in the world by volume that is licensed in the US, EU, and Japan
Today Joel Edgerton joins us to discuss how bitflyer is the largest bitcoin exchange in the world by volume that is licensed in the US, EU, and Japan.
Joel is currently the COO at bitFlyer USA, a global cryptocurrency exchange with offices in Tokyo, San Francisco, and Luxembourg. Joel leads the company’s expansion in the USA, developing a strong team with institutional and retail customer experience. He has advocated for cryptocurrency exchanges to go beyond simply offering products, to better protect customer interests and solve customer problems.
Prior to joining bitFlyer USA, Joel held senior positions in Tokyo and London with Citibank, State Street, Legg Mason and BNP Paribas. He also founded his own fintech company offering personalized financial advice via algorithms based on behavioral economic theories. Joel is bilingual (Japanese and English) and holds an MBA in International Finance.
*Disclaimer. None of this information is financial advice.
The following transcript was created using artificial intelligence. There will be some grammatical errors below.
00:00:03:03 – 00:00:03:18
Richard Carthon: Hello everyone. Welcome to another episode of Crypto Current, your host here Richard Carthon and today I’ve got a very special guest all the way out in Medellín, Colombia. I met him, he has his own podcast, some really cool stuff going on in the Crypto, Blockchain space, so many cool things that Brandon’s working on, but anyway, Brandon, really appreciate you joining us here today.
00:00:03:20 – 00:00:20:03
Brandon Zemp: Absolutely.
00:00:20:05 – 00:00:20:20
Richard Carthon: Yeah, so before we dive in, how about you give us a little bit of background about yourself?
00:00:33:22 – 00:00:46:18
Brandon Zemp: Yeah. So like you said already, I am in Medellín, Columbia currently, but I grew up in Oregon and a little bit in Las Vegas, Nevada, gotta love Las Vegas.
00:00:46:20 – 00:00:47:05
Richard Carthon: Good times.
00:00:47:07 – 00:01:22:12
Brandon Zemp: And yeah, went to college in California where I earned my bachelor’s degree in neuroscience. I was originally pre-med track considering going to medical school and all that. Being an entrepreneur and an investor at heart, I wanted to travel more and look for opportunities and not kind of get stuck in that rut that a lot of people have with a ton of debt and not being able to live more freely. So, I was kind of torn between the two.
00:01:22:14 – 00:01:22:29
Richard Carthon: Yeah.
00:01:23:01 – 00:02:07:16
Brandon Zemp: So, got out, travelled, really got to hang out with people that were older than me and smarter that gave me a lot of knowledge, especially around Blockchain because when I graduated college in 2017 is when the space really started taking off outside of just Bitcoin and Ethereum, it was a lot of excitement around the entire industry as a whole. I decided to start focusing on that mainly, on Blockchain as a technology, you know, what it could do and then I kind of wanted to figure out how it all worked, what could I do in that space like, could I make this like in some kind of way.
00:02:08:00 – 00:02:47:16
Richard Carthon: Yeah, that’s awesome man. Actually there’s something that you brought up that I kind of wanted to touch on real quick before we move forward and it was you had this in your mind of, Hey I want to go this route, right? I want to be potentially a doctor, but you decided that I want to go this other way because you knew what you wanted internally. I faced the exact same challenge, I was on track, I finished business school, but also was getting ready to go to law school, but had my own startup and decided to go that route first. And like I mostly, I can always go back to school and work on all this stuff, like what was it that compelled you so strongly to just go ahead and take that leap to follow your passion versus security?
00:02:47:27 – 00:03:09:00
Brandon Zemp: So I had a lot of friends that were older than me in college too and I was watching them graduate and trying to finish school or get a job in their industry. So we all go through undergrad and we have these dreams and aspirations for a career and that’s all we do four years straight is study and work towards that one goal and then it never pans out like that.
00:03:09:02 – 00:03:09:23
Richard Carthon: Right.
00:03:09:25 – 00:03:35:07
Brandon Zemp: I know so many of my friends, three years we’ve been from college now that are either just going back to school, grad school because they don’t really know what to do yet and they need more education, putting themselves more in debt. I have friends that have struggled to get the jobs they want that have had to pivot and do different things and I just didn’t want to be in that position of watching everyone just unhappy.
00:03:36:00 – 00:03:36:15
Richard Carthon: Yeah.
00:03:36:17 – 00:03:44:08
Brandon Zemp: So, well if that’s the outcome then I might as well just do what makes me happy, right? So I mean, as far as we know, we live once, might as well just do that.
00:03:44:10 – 00:03:44:25
Richard Carthon: Yeah.
00:03:44:27 – 00:03:56:24
Brandon Zemp: So, I could have always just gone to medical school at some point or just tried, but was like, Well I have time, let’s take a year, let’s take a year off, figure it out.
00:03:56:28 – 00:03:57:13
Richard Carthon: Yeah.
00:03:57:15 – 00:04:00:12
Brandon Zemp: If I like it cool, if not, I can fall back on the medical stuff, so.
00:04:00:14 – 00:04:19:22
Richard Carthon: For sure. And going after the passion and you said in 2017 that’s when you first learned about Blockchain and got really, really passionate about it. Once you started going down that rabbit hole and figured out, Okay, here’s how I can create a career in this path, kind of walk us through like to that first introduction into it to where you are today.
00:04:21:05 – 00:05:47:23
Brandon Zemp: Well, I’ve known about Bitcoin probably since 2012, 2013. I remember going to a conference in Vegas and Peter Schiff was giving a speech and they were doing a whole bunch of modules and everyone was there for asset protection and learning about gold and silver and all that stuff, but Bitcoin like had just gone to like $1,300 or $1,200, which they’d run up and it was in the news. And everyone was like, Oh I want to buy this, what is it? That drove a lot of interest for me, seeing that you know, something that’s completely digital you know, that no one owns, no one controls 100 percent, it’s decentralized, immutable. There’s gotta be some value in that, so there’s gotta be some industry and it can’t be the only thing, then the technology and what can be done with it. Ethereum was starting to grow a couple of years after that. So I was like, Oh, ok, so now there’s going to be an entire ecosystem of things you can do with Blockchain, not just for payment service. I knew there was a future in it, it was gonna be a whole industry. I knew about it for a long time, but it probably was until after I graduated from college that I really picked up interest in it.
00:05:47:25 – 00:06:38:14
Brandon Zemp: Spending time with a bunch of investors and traveling, I got to see how it was impacting a lot of different people in different places. I was able to go to Germany, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Columbia of course, Panama, various places in the U.S. state by state, got to see how people are implementing it, working with it and pulling out these projects, trying to find solutions to real world problems. So I definitely got interested because I was kind of around it a lot and then I kind of stuck with it, started talking to people about it all the time. You just become embroiled in that industry, so that kind of generated my interest. It wasn’t like a single moment, I guess it was like a bunch of moments over time.
00:06:38:29 – 00:07:00:25
Richard Carthon: Kind of like this whole like trajectory of like, Ok here’s one piece, here’s another element, here’s another element and it kind of just builds on top of each other and this momentum of like, Ok I guess this is the direction that I’m being called towards, let me see how far this can go and within that at some point you know, you started the Block Hash Podcast, so can you tell us a little bit about what that is and what you’re doing with that?
00:07:02:00 – 00:07:24:16
Brandon Zemp: Yeah. So one of the biggest things I realized you know, as an investor, as an entrepreneur, you look for opportunities in different sectors, that’s what you do. So I was looking at Blockchain, I was like, What is it missing? And the biggest thing that it was missing was education. Every time I talked to someone about Crypto, Blockchain or Bitcoin over the last couple of years, most people have no idea.
00:07:25:26 – 00:07:26:11
Richard Carthon: Yeah.
00:07:26:13 – 00:08:36:03
Brandon Zemp: Or they know very little about it or have a very generalized notion of what it is. So I was like, Ok well if this industry is really going to take off at some point and it’s going to be legit and then there has to be some education out there, trying to build bridges and connect people with these projects and help make this stuff work, so I figured the best way to do that would be to have a podcast. Started my company, Block Hash, a couple of years ago and just did a whole bunch of consulting. It became apparent to me that it’d be easier if I did a podcast and then I could get that information out there quicker. And so a bunch of people could have conversations with awesome, interesting people that are in the industry, do a lot of good for me personally, learning about this stuff on a weekly basis, but also being able to share that with people and then make money off that I guess in the future, but the connecting with people and building those relationships and learning about the industry has been incredibly invaluable. It’s probably one of the best things I’ve ever done was starting a podcast.
00:08:36:17 – 00:09:33:09
Richard Carthon: I would cosign that. Yeah I mean, we have a pretty similar story in that sense as I learned about this, I saw there just like you said, a giant gap in the educational piece and a lot of when I first learned about it. So I didn’t learn about it until early 2018 and the first thing was like, Well why haven’t my circles been talking about this/like why hasn’t this been put on my radar until now? And then as I was trying to go get more information about it, everything was so technical, everything was just so not made for your everyday person to try to come on and understand and then proactively have action steps to get involved. And so wanted to try to create a platform that could help facilitate that, but just like you said, one of the most valuable thing hands down has been the relationships and meeting incredible people working on incredible projects. We’re very passionate about what we do and like I love surrounding myself with people who are passionate about what they’re doing, but then are also working on it like really cool things within the space as well.
00:09:33:14 – 00:10:25:16
Brandon Zemp: Yeah and podcasting is huge right now too, it’s been growing tremendously over the past few years, five years or so. So, it’s a medium people go to to learn about things and when you’re having conversations with people directly, people will tune in because it’s better information. Rather than seeing it on the news or hearing about it from someone else, having that direct contact with someone, being able to learn exactly what’s going on with the project, learn exactly what’s going on in the industry, when there’s a swing up or swing down or something new is on the scene, being able to talk to those people. I mean, people find that stuff really valuable, I’m sure you know that firsthand as well. So it’s podcasts and just a great medium in general.
00:10:25:18 – 00:10:35:00
Richard Carthon: For sure, absolutely man. And on that note, you know, what has been some of the biggest things that you’ve been able to learn through conversations that you’ve had with some of the people that you’ve brought onto your show?
00:10:35:02 – 00:11:50:14
Brandon Zemp: Man, I’ve learned so much. The things you hear sometimes, the hype, it’s really not what it seems like. For example, there are a lot of people that are attacking their Hashgraph for a long time, saying that it was just a Ponzi scheme, it was something that couldn’t compete with Blockchain. As everyone was trying to figure out well, Can you do something similar to Blockchain that isn’t like Blockchain, could you take a different mathematical approach? So there was a lot of community pushback against things like Hashgraph. I remember talking to Lehman on the podcast about it and he was probably one of the smartest guys I’ve ever talked to and definitely changed my opinion completely on that project and that’s happened with a lot of people too. I think it’s very common in podcasting and radio and talk shows, you get people on in-person and you have conversations with them and you find out that it’s usually stories that are completely different than what you’re hearing. Hype is completely different than what you’re hearing, like why is something happening in the market?
00:11:50:29 – 00:11:51:14
Richard Carthon: Yeah.
00:11:51:16 – 00:11:58:04
Brandon Zemp: Why is it doing this or that? Nothing is ever as it seems, you know, it’s probably the biggest thing that I’ve learned.
00:11:58:20 – 00:12:47:01
Richard Carthon: Yeah, I think that’s a really good point. Just like you said, the transparent conversation with someone who you might go into a conversation feeling one way and then by the end have changed your opinion a little bit just from having very candid conversations in just hearing a differing side without necessarily an agenda, right? It’s just that open conversation to try to receive what someone is telling you in that moment, change something just a little bit in your mind, right? Because like I think there are a ton of gems in podcasting, in conversations and things that can be taken away, but if one thing is said that like triggers something in your mind to like make you act and do something new in your life, that’s a win and like I try to get just like a couple of those per episode that hopefully someone hears something that triggers something and they now want to go do something about it.
00:12:47:05 – 00:13:02:07
Brandon Zemp: Right. Would you rather have an opinionated like article that you could read about me or watch me on the news for some giant conglomerate that’s probably twisting stories or would you rather hear me on Crypto Current talking to you directly?
00:13:02:22 – 00:13:03:07
Richard Carthon: Right.
00:13:03:09 – 00:13:12:06
Brandon Zemp: I mean, I think it’s pretty common sense, I think a lot of people enjoy that. So you get a lot of good, raw content material out of it.
00:13:12:08 – 00:13:30:15
Richard Carthon: For sure, for sure man. And kind of shifting gears just a little bit, you know, you’ve been in this space for a while now and currently you’re living in Columbia and I kind of want to talk to that really quickly. What brought you out there, what are you currently doing there to help grow the Blockchain community?
00:13:32:26 – 00:15:04:00
Brandon Zemp: I mostly came out to Columbia for work. I wanted to find a place I could live outside the U.S. because I didn’t want to live in the U.S. all the time. I just felt it’s very narrow minded to not want to branch out, experience a different culture. So I liked Columbia, I pinpointed it, everyone told me Medellín is a place you have to go, it’s an incredible, amazing city and it’s booming and tech is moving here very rapidly and it’s modernizing very quickly here in and in other places. So I was like, All right, I just pinpointed it on the map, came to Columbia, started spending a lot of time here the last couple of years. And it just so happens that Blockchain is a really big talking point here, so is Bitcoin and just Cryptocurrency in general. There’s a lot of companies, including the government, looking for ways to implement it. There’s some articles recently about how some of the big grocery store conglomerates are trying to incorporate Bitcoin somehow so that you can spend Bitcoin instead of pesos because the peso is getting weaker and weaker against the dollar right now, so people are looking for alternatives. Then the government wants to be able to implement Blockchain so that they can solve certain corruption issues and maybe implement voting on a Blockchain or use it in ways that could help raise people out of poverty in Medellín because there’s a lot of people that are impoverished still.
00:15:04:19 – 00:15:23:19
Brandon Zemp: There’s a lot of things people are working on. Over the next four or five years, this decade, you’ll see tremendous growth in Colombia I guarantee it. There’s so much tech moving here, it feels like Silicon Valley sometimes, you got robots delivering you food to your house.
00:15:23:21 – 00:15:24:06
Richard Carthon: Wow.
00:15:24:08 – 00:15:42:27
Brandon Zemp: You got autonomous cars on the road just like you would in California, you got Blockchain coming up, a lot of software development. I mean, it’s modernizing very, very quickly. So, if you want a place to travel to, come to Columbia, it’s not what you think.
00:15:43:13 – 00:16:08:21
Richard Carthon: Yeah no, that’s cool. Thanks for putting it on my radar I mean, I have one of my good friends from college who lives out there who has said, kind of voiced a couple of things in that space of tech is actually picking up a lot out there, but I also didn’t know from the FinTech side with Crypto and Blockchain that it’s becoming a scene as well. So, definitely going to want to find a way to go out there, especially if there’s some sort of conference after all this COVID’s stuff over, going to personally try to find a way out there.
00:16:08:23 – 00:16:36:05
Brandon Zemp: Yeah, just work on your Spanish a little bit. You know, tickets are pretty cheap, cost of living is very cheap, you’ll enjoy it very, very much. It’s also a beautiful city too and people are super nice, so. A lot of people have the stereotype that it’s still stuck in like the 90s and you got narcos running around, you get kidnapped, but I mean, it doesn’t really happen, it’s pretty rare nowadays.
00:16:36:11 – 00:17:22:18
Richard Carthon: That’s good to knock down that stereotype and to change that narrative for sure, but another kind of question I have for you is you know, 2020, been an interesting year to say the least and a lot has happened to push the Crypto and Blockchain scene a lot faster than I think would have happened otherwise. What are some things that you think are on the horizon in this space that you think people should be aware of? In effect where Cryptocurrency’s headed, where the DeFi space is headed, where Blockchain is starting to be implemented more than just Cryptocurrency, but like all across anywhere.
00:17:22:20 – 00:18:26:27
Brandon Zemp: Sure. You know, I think we can probably theorize on this forever for hours, but you know, Bitcoin is showing a lot of parallel to gold right now. It has performed very, very well, along with most of the Crypto market since the pandemic hit. A lot of people went for a cash grab and then they started buying harder assets, then Warren Buffett recently pretty much divested and reinvested into Barrick Gold and other solid assets and you know, Bitcoin has been following those very, very tightly in the charts and its performance and its ideology. When people look at it, people think of Bitcoin more as an asset nowadays than they do money. I think that’s begun to shape up a lot. Bitcoin is definitely grown, I think a lot this year, in terms of how people look at it, what the mindset is. I’m very bullish on Bitcoin’s future, it’s not going anywhere and I think it’s really starting to kind of shape up.
00:18:28:04 – 00:19:27:11
Brandon Zemp: In terms of things like DeFi, it’s very young, the entire industry is and I think it has a lot of things to work out. One of them it’s collateralized loans, finding great uses for them. They’re also getting killed by them when the market swings because there’s not a lot of stability in the market and people aren’t quite educated, so when you don’t have a bank doing it for you, you’re doing it yourself. You don’t have the same asset management or the same monetary controls, so there’s a lot of people again, just not quite educated in what they should be doing in those situations. They’re kind of getting stuck, so I think DeFi has a lot of room to grow, but it is a promising area in the space. Staking is another big one you know, slowly getting away from proof of work is going to be huge. One of the biggest turning points that we’ll have to look at is what happens with Ethereum 2.0.
00:19:28:05 – 00:19:31:28
Richard Carthon: Does it come through? Does it happen?
00:19:32:04 – 00:20:48:15
Brandon Zemp: Does it happen? Does it work? Does it make a difference? Because Ethereum controls the entire market share for what dApps can be and what you can build on Blockchain. Ethereum is the place to go, so if Ethereum fails and they can’t have dApps, like Cardona wins, or Eos wins, or Neo wins, then it’s going to lose a lot of market share to other projects that are excelling right now. Cardona, Tezos, Neo, Eos, name tons and tons of them. Chainlink is doing well, Polkadot is doing well. Ethereum’s at the edge right now in it’s dominance I’d say in the space if it doesn’t progress and shift from proof of work to proof of stake and show that it can scale and eliminate gas issues then I think it’s going to start losing that competitive advantage. If it does, then well, you’ll continue to see Ethereum dominate the space, but I don’t think it’s going to happen, so I think that’s going to be a huge turning point for where people begin to invest their money and put their trust when they start building things because it’s kind of how the whole space works. Where do you want to build on? You know, what’s the best Blockchain? Which one is going to be reliable?
00:20:48:17 – 00:20:49:03
Richard Carthon: Reliable and scalable.
00:20:50:13 – 00:20:56:07
Brandon Zemp: Big up in the air question, can Ethereum do it or not? So, that’s the one thing I’m watching.
00:20:56:14 – 00:21:45:08
Richard Carthon: Same and thanks for elaborating on all of those. I think personally as well, with Eth, you know, I used to say a lot like I feel like it’s too big to fail, but it’s at that inflection point right now like it’s do or die time. And I think they only have so much more time and people willing to wait to figure that out because otherwise it’s becoming way too expensive to keep building on top of and it’s taking too much time and it’s making people who are building really cool things to reconsider and be like, All right well, guess I just got to restart and they’re starting to do cost analysis on like, Do I just Switch to Eos or Tezos or any of these other ones? And like because that’s already starting to become conversations and thought processes, I agree that like Eth is on borrowed time right now and needs to come up with some sort of solution sooner than later.
00:21:45:10 – 00:22:20:21
Brandon Zemp: An example I like to use all the time for Ethereum is what if Microsoft said they want to build this awesome dApp on top of Ethereum with this awesome use case, whatever it may be, but they can’t do it because every time a Crypto kiddie surges in popularity, all of a sudden it slows down, it becomes expensive, customers don’t want to use it anymore. They can’t have that ability to not rely on the Blockchain in that way, they have to be able to rely on it.
00:22:21:02 – 00:22:21:17
Richard Carthon: Yeah.
00:22:21:19 – 00:22:27:12
Brandon Zemp: So, if Ethereum can’t do that for its customers in the future, someone else will, so.
00:22:27:14 – 00:22:42:09
Richard Carthon: Absolutely, for sure man. Well hey, I really do appreciate you spending some time with us, putting a lot of that on our radar. What is a final thought that you want to leave with all of our listeners here listening today?
00:22:44:02 – 00:23:09:15
Brandon Zemp: Do your own due diligence, don’t listen to the hype and nothing is always as it seems, especially in this space. There’s a lot of news, there’s a lot of false news. People say a lot of things on Crypto Twitter, it’s a wild world, it’s early. Do your own research and you’ll be surprised what you learn and you’ll see a lot more success out of that.
00:23:10:00 – 00:23:17:28
Richard Carthon: Well thank you for that final thought. What are some ways that people can connect with you and learn more about what you have going on and learn more about Block Hash?
00:23:18:00 – 00:23:54:02
Brandon Zemp: Yeah, if you go to the BlockHashPodcast.com, you could just submit me a form there if you want to reach out to me. My email’s up there too, I respond back as often as I can to people. Open to having conversations and hearing from people on Twitter as well, that’s a good place to reach out to me. Podcast is on every Wednesday, generally with a new guest and it’s on pretty much every platform imaginable, it won’t be hard to find. Yeah, that’s about all you need to know.
00:23:54:28 – 00:23:55:03
Richard Carthon: Everyone listening, Stay Crypto Current.
Crypto Current will be guiding all of you who are new to the cryptocurrency world to becoming a cryptocurrency and blockchain expert. Crypto Current was founded to give access to information to everyone on current events occurring in cryptocurrency and blockchain in a digestible way. Since its creation, we have created content that impacted thousands of people through its podcast, blog, and social media.