Sean Tolkin, founder and CEO of digital currency provider Aus Merchant, gives us the rundown on all things crypto and how investors can do some good with their dividends.
When did you first find an interest in crypto?
In 2016, I was sitting on a friend’s couch. We were supposed to be discussing opportunities in the share markets.
My buddy proceeded to discuss crypto-currency in finer detail. The first topic was of course Bitcoin. Once I was able to wrap my head around blockchain technology and the value of an immutable ledger, there was really no turning back.
3 hours later and still on the couch, I decided that I will invest $10,000. So, we jumped onto a cryptocurrency exchange. I actually found the experience rather uncomfortable and confusing. My workaround for the order books and complicated process of buying Bitcoin was to give my trusted friend the Aussie dollars to get me set with my first investment.
The best part about this story is that the friend I’m referring to is the co-founder and Head of Funds Management at Aus Merchant Investments, which is our ASIC regulated Managed Investments Scheme.
In layman’s terms, can you briefly explain what crypto is and how it works?
Crypto is a generic term that captures the broad spectrum of crypto-assets. These assets come in all different ‘flavours’. The best way to explain crypto is to start with Bitcoin. Bitcoin is an open-source peer-to-peer digital currency. This means that its code is freely available for anyone to investigate (i.e. it’s not proprietary intellectual property held behind closed doors) and anyone can use this software to transact directly with another person, without needing to use a trusted intermediary such as a bank because the complex mathematical computation provides transaction verification.
Do you believe crypto has democratised currency (as it was originally intended) or is it still a game for people with cash excess cash to play with?
Crypto has certainly democratised finance in numerous ways. Firstly, Bitcoin is ‘hard money’, i.e. it cannot be created at the will of the few to the detriment of the many. This means that it’s an effective store of value and its purchasing power won’t be negatively impacted by monetary policy.
Furthermore, the rise of play to earn games has been a paradigm shift for developing nations. Gamers are able to generate incomes that are far superior to the median wage of workers in their respective countries.
What role do you see cryptocurrency playing in 10 years time?
It’s very hard to predict exactly what role it will play in the next 10 years as the technology develops at an exponential speed. What we can see is that the proliferation of decentralised finance has exposed numerous inefficiencies in the traditional financial space that blockchain will revolutionise.
It will also play a much larger role in supply chain management, data preservation and protection as well as social media platforms and grass roots organising.
Has COVID-19 rattled the crypto market at all?
Not at all, in fact the pandemic has been a major impetus in the rapid acceptance of Bitcoin as an effective hedge against inflation and other black swan events.
Furthermore, with a large percentage of the population unable to work due to stay-at-home orders, many turned to crypto and defi specifically to earn a living.
A lot of people see cryptocurrency as ways to get rich quick by buying and selling at the “right time.” Do you think this mindset needs to change?
It is definitely important for this dynamic to change and there are signs that this is occurring faster than anyone expected. Speculation is a key driver of the highly volatile market, however, this is a nascent asset class that is still going through a price discovery phase. If you compare the crypto market to gold in the 1970s the similarities are astounding.
What can cryptocurrency offer us? Do you think it has the potential to change the world for the better?
Aus Merchant has set its goals on building and aggregating the required digital asset infrastructure to provide an end-to-end custodial money services ecosystem, transitioning traditional finance, businesses, investors, and consumers towards using a blockchain-enabled digital asset economy.
Blockchain technology is shaping an industrial revolution in financial markets. Industry is being rapidly disrupted by technologies, adding benefit and value to its wider communities and stakeholders. I have witnessed and studied the transcendence of money through sound cryptocurrencies. I believe in and back the immutable ledger as the necessary layer of trust for the world’s economy to prosper.
Aus Merchant strives to bring these benefits to clients. Our goal is to simplify the experience; enhancing the customers’ ability not only to trade crypto but also purchase or sell goods and services with crypto as a form of tender.
How is Aus Merchant doing that?
Aus Merchant is bridging the gap between traditional financial services and decentralised blockchain based financial systems. Education is a large part of this and a key focus of ours. By educating the public and removing barriers to entry we effectively achieve our mission of empowering individuals and businesses to harness the potential of blockchain to take charge of their finances.
Why is your current partnership with The Jewish House so important to you?
Aus Merchant and Jewish House has set a target to raise $100,000 AUD in cryptocurrency to go towards temporary accommodation in Ashfield in Sydney’s Inner West. The aim of the project was inspired by Homelessness Week to provide housing for those in need until they can get back on their feet by finding employment or by overcoming personal struggles.
The landlord of the property has made the location available at a very generous rate and so, Jewish House now requires $50 per week per bed to fully fund the project. This equates to roughly $100,000 to fund 36 beds at the property for an entire year. The average length of stay is between 3 to 6 months, so this project would help around 100 people in need over the course of the year.
Jewish House has been a beacon of light through dark times and adversities in my life. The organisation is completely non-judgmental and has a mandate to help people achieve freedom. Whether that is freedom from life’s tough circumstances, personal challenges, or their own afflictions. The concept of freedom is dear to my heart as it is aligned with the overall mission of Aus Merchant, which is to help our clients gain financial freedom through digital assets and be part of what we believe is the future of financial freedom.
I am immensely proud of the work my team has done here, I feel it’s important to support Jewish House and the Homelessness Week Project. I have started with a $10k crypto donation, I am hoping others will join.
How can individuals get involved and support the cause?
Individuals can support Jewish House by speaking to our dedicated team. The team will provide you with an online invoice to donate to charity in your choice of up to 27 different cryptocurrencies. Aus Merchant will settle the funds and provide each charity with AUD equivalent to the market value of the crypto at the time of your donation.
We also send you an NFT donation badge as a small thank you for your support. We want to make the donation experience fun with crypto and NFTs so it’s a great way to try out new technology while making a positive impact on Australian communities.
There’s a lot of money in cryptocurrency investments and we want to create a bridge between investors, users, and participants of crypto to be able to easily support Australian charities with crypto.
About Sean Tolkin
Sean is Founder and CEO of Aus Merchant, a disruptive startup specialising in cryptocurrency investment management, secure wallet infrastructure, a crypto payment gateway, and NFT’s. Aus Merchant has been growing rapidly since its launch in June 2020 and is now empowering Australian merchants, consumers, and artists to jump into the world of blockchain technology and cryptocurrency to reach their goals. Whether that’s expanding their consumer exchange capabilities, getting their cryptocurrency wallet off the ground, or creating and minting NFTs.