Vladimir Gorbunov, Founder/CEO crypto firm Choise.com

Pemo: Welcome Vladimir, I’m so pleased to have you on the show today, all the way from London. Please, can you tell me a bit about choise.com and what you guys do?

Vladimir Gorbunov: Yeah, definitely. So, happy to be here. So first of all, we started our history five years ago with a company called Criterium. And it was during the times when the crypto market was like the wild west and it wasn’t really possible to buy crypto or sell crypto or to do it in a very easy and simple manner. And our core idea behind our business was to help people to just easily buy Bitcoin and spend it as you would do with your normal money. And after almost five years, we’ve invested a lot of money, over 60 million dollars in building the ecosystem. We work and operate in over 100 different countries. And I think that we’ve done so. I mean, people could now use our products to buy, sell, spend, crypto. We have visa cards, we have IBAN accounts and all the crypto related services.
And two years ago we started to think about how we can move on. And we recognized that the current market is much, let’s say, bigger and much more developed than before. And we define our strategy to go into, not to stay only in the CeFi centralized finance space, but also to make a move into decentralized finance space. And that’s how we get basically to the choise.com. That is a combination of DeFi and CeFi. Like Cripterium and our product called Crypterium, helps people to have all the services they need under one roof in a simple, easy manner to use.

Pemo: Yeah. Fantastic. Simple’s good. And obviously authentic’s good at the moment too with all the scams that have just recently surfaced. What’s your insight into all of that with FTX?

Vladimir Gorbunov: Oh, that’s a big problem for the whole crypto community.

Pemo: Nightmare.

Vladimir Gorbunov: Yeah. I wouldn’t talk only about FTX. So basically, first things. Yeah, we came to the market in 2017, and in 2018 when first, for me, the first crypto winter started, I thought maybe I made a wrong decision. I made the wrong decision with the market because of such big crashes happening there. But people around me that were in the market for a couple of years, they said relax, take it easy, it’s just a crypto winter. And if you believe in the idea of a crypto winter, then you believe in the idea of crypto summers. And all other seasons there. So first of all, in 2021, I think everyone predicted that 2022 will be a red market. And I think that the whole situation with FTX happened with, first of all, Luna.

Pemo: Yes, of course.

Vladimir Gorbunov: Yeah, yeah. Because I think that usually crypto funds and a lot of institutional companies were doing this, they would for example, borrow money from Celsius for 10%, put them into Luna for 20% and make money out of that. And yeah, when Luna crashed, after that we saw the crash of Celsius and The Block fined all the companies who were in these toxic assets. And so I think that FTX was just following after all of these things that started with Luna.

Pemo: Right. Well thanks for that explanation. Yeah, it’s been a bit of a crazy time. I’ve been following Bitcoin since I had a business in Ireland in 2008.

Vladimir Gorbunov: Oh really?

Pemo: And trying to support that ecosystem. So yeah, you see quite a few falls since then. And booms, as you said, around 2017.

Vladimir Gorbunov: Do you believe in crypto winter?

Pemo: Yeah. So put our coats on.

Vladimir Gorbunov: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Pemo: So tell me, what do you think, at the moment, there’s also… Being in the US there’s also a lot of layoffs in the big tech companies and a lot. And obviously this FTX dilemma has affected people’s trust in crypto again. And I was wondering what your summary is about all these things that have happened this year. And I know that you raised venture capital this year. So can you tell me, because at the moment the market seems very tight as regards venture capital? So what’s your thoughts on and what’s your experience on that this year?

Vladimir Gorbunov: Yeah, so I would probably start with my thoughts about this year, 2022. So, I mean all the things that happened now are just… So we began this year in let’s say crypto autumn. Now we could, with much confidence, say that crypto winter has begun and at least we won’t see a big fall down. I don’t really believe that the market will fall down lower than let’s say $20,000 for Bitcoin. Because the cost for the price of mining at the moment is around these figures. And in the whole entire history for the last 12 years, the market wasn’t going any lower than the price of mining. And I don’t think that this winter will last for a long time, at least I think after the next maybe 6 to 8 months as it was before. We will see crypto spring, even if we won’t recognize it, you can only recognize it after the crypto summer starts.
You can see, let’s say, a bottom point. But I would say that the beginning of the year was really interesting. A lot of investments during this year. And a lot of new projects, new products and new companies. But what happens now, I mean, it doesn’t matter what, it will be Luna or Celsius or FTX. It will still be a crypto winter because this market lives in cycles. And I see these cycles for at least the last six years. So it’s a second crypto winter for us, I would say that. So I think it’s a very good time for a lot of new technologies to come into the game.

Pemo: Interesting.

Vladimir Gorbunov: Yeah. And if we would go backwards and see what happened in 2018 and 19, you would recognize all of the technologies that basically came to the market and that were, during last couple of years, on the top of this market. So it’s a good time to start your business. It’s a good time to invest in crypto. Because the entrance prices are very low at the moment. And if the market will do what it did for the last four cycles, then at least we’ll get to all time highs. For major cryptocurrencies, we can see that the potential is huge like 3, 4, 500% there. Yeah, so that’s the first point. So I think that that market was in some cases bad, especially for companies that were, and people who were involved in these troubled companies. We were lucky not to be there. Nothing in Luna, Celsius or anything else!
But what is good is that it’s a very good time to concentrate your business on preparation for next seasons, that is basically what we do. And yeah, as you mentioned, we were fundraising this year. We started in the beginning of the year with the first small round for $4M, not more than$5M. It was more for the community to launch our new token CHO. And in the end we started a series A round. We were happy to finish the first part before all the things happened with FTX. So I think that market, of course, and investors at the moment, they’re scared, they don’t want to invest actively.

Pemo: Well yes, because of all the talk of recession in the US and obviously I also follow UK news and I see that there’s fear about that as well in the UK. So yeah, with that tightening up, what do you sense? For me, I always see that if you have risk tolerance, then bad times actually can end up equaling good times in business.

Vladimir Gorbunov: Yeah. I would say that this market is generating fear in investors, but those investors who started to invest, let’s say two years ago or four years ago. but those investors who just started to invest now, especially in the companies who have a market, who have traction, who have a user base or interesting technologies, I think that they don’t have so much fear. Because they came into a very cheap market – in a way where you can get everything cheaper. But as for other funds here? So we see that even keeping in mind that we’ve closed the first part of our series A round, and we had plans to launch the second part in a more retail style. (I will explain a little bit later.) But still, some of the investment funds who try to and plan to get involved in this market, say that they’re on pause at the moment. That they want to hold on for a while.

Pemo: Holding back.

Vladimir Gorbunov: Yeah, holding back. They invested in some companies that have dropped more than 10, 20 times. So of course.

Pemo: Exactly. Yeah.

Vladimir Gorbunov: Their investors are not really heavy. But still, we need to say that on the market there are a lot of active investments at the moment. A lot of deals are still going on, a lot of money is entering the market. But I would say the average check is a little bit lower, and the audit is better than before. So not as much money as before, but still a market exists of course.

Pemo: Yeah. And obviously if you’ve got a good business, and as you said you are risk tolerant, I think that… You know, you can have good times even when it appears to be a slow market. So can you tell me, just to finish our talk, what choise.com actually offers as a solution to what problem? What’s the problem that you are solving? That makes you an individual startup?

Vladimir Gorbunov: Yeah, that’s a good question. So first of all, we recognized, as I said a couple of years ago, that the market split into two different parts without a real bridge between them. There is a centralized part and decentralized part. And both of them offer some really good value for customers. They provide a very good value for customers. But Defi could help you to earn more, maybe you can use it with more anonymity, but it’s very, very complicated. With CeFi companies, they are more regulated and maybe you can use them easier. But still there are a lot of problems, like you see what happened with FTX and other stuff. So we decided to basically create the fully first earning marketplace that would combine DeFi and CeFi under one roof. That’s why choise.com aims to help people to find all the earning opportunities in one single place and provides the crypto infrastructure to get to your goals easier.

Pemo: That would make your market much bigger, I would imagine. Is that correct?

Vladimir Gorbunov: Definitely. And it helps us to solve big problems. For example, if you would be interested, let’s say, to enter an electricity pool, let’s say on Polygon blockchain that provides you a really good API or provides you some services that you can do there with your assets? How can you get there from your centralized wallet? Previously it was almost impossible. It was very hard to do. You would need to transfer your funds from one blockchain to another, do a couple of transactions, especially if you want to enter the liquidity pool, you will need to swap your currencies a couple of times. And then to stake it…

Pemo: Very complex.

Vladimir Gorbunov: Yeah, very complex, but very profitable and very interesting. And basically what we built was a transactional builder protocol that helps people to do it in a one single click of a button and all the 18 transactions behind that would just be done in a couple of seconds for a customer. That’s just an example. So what is the choice? So we basically unite and combine all of the most interesting services from both spaces and from CeFi and Defi.

Pemo: Fabulous. And also it brings peace to the battle that’s been going on for years about the two. So yeah, that’s good. And increases your market range. So that’s fantastic. I’m sure you’re going to be really successful.

Vladimir Gorbunov: Yeah, thank you.

Pemo: And good luck with further rounds. I would imagine you should do well.

Vladimir Gorbunov: We do a very interesting thing at the moment, we call it an NTO. It is like an NFT token offering and it is something really new. As I said before, I want to mention that. So as you know, previously the NFT market had a big problem of, let’s say, value. So you can buy an NFT, but you don’t know what the price of this NFT will be in the future and what is backing it. I mean, where does this come from?
And the second problems with tokens and with investments, a lot of companies during crypto winter will meet a problem that they won’t be able to fundraise through investment funds. And they have only one chance to go and to sell their tokens. I mean, if we’re talking about the companies that have already listed their tokens on the exchanges. So they have not a lot of choice about what they can do. And we are building at the moment an idea of an NTO that is a combination of an NFT and the tokens with a pretty big discount that companies could use for secondary market tokens and investments rounds. We’re trying to build a new trend and if we will be successful in this case, it will be really interesting because after all the previous trends like ICO, IEO, STO.

Pemo: Yeah, I know. It was hard to keep up there for a few years.

Vladimir Gorbunov: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. We see that this NTO concept could probably really help a lot of companies in the space. And we will do the first NTO for choise.com and it will just start in the next couple of days.

Pemo: So you’re launching that really soon? Is what you’re saying?

Vladimir Gorbunov: Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Pemo: Fabulous. Fabulous. Well, I hope some of our listeners go and check your website out and try this. But gee, absolutely, so interesting! Sounds like you’ve got a great business and I wish you all the best for the future. Thank you so much.

Vladimir Gorbunov: Thank you. Thank you very much. Was happy and glad to be here.

Pemo: Good on you Vladimir. Bye.

Vladimir Gorbunov: Bye-bye.

Pemo Theodore

Pemo Theodore is a Media Publisher and a great people connector. She was Founder Silicon Valley TV which served the San Francisco Bay Area for 10 years! She has produced Silicon Valley Events for Investors & Startups for 10 years. Pemo loves to video interview venture capitalists & founders to engage the human behind the success stories.. She has been Executive Producer of FinTech Silicon Valley for 6 years, organizing twice monthly FinTech talks & panels in San Francisco & Palo Alto and audio podcasts. She believes in learning through a great discussion with experts in the domains. Pemo has a talent to bring the right people together and is an incredible networker. Pemo's events have been seen as supporting Venture Capitalists & Angels in sourcing great deal flow from startups who attend her events. Many founders have received funding through meeting investors at her events. Her favored medium is audio & visual media and she has built up a great body of work of videos of panels & interviews and podcasts in Silicon Valley startup ecosystem. She has lived & worked in Canada, Australia, Ireland, London, Northern Ireland, New Zealand & Silicon Valley. Bio https://pemo.one

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