It's Too Early and Niche to Build an Exchange Around Bitcoin Cash

TL;DR: Last year in April, I started to work on an exciting project, Voltaire.cash. The idea was to allow users to conduct cryptocurrency exchange denominated in Bitcoin Cash. I was surrounded by very talented people in the fields of engineering, design and growth. I funded the company myself for a long time, using earnings I made from buying and trading cryptocurrency from 2013. It’s been almost a year now, and unfortunately, Voltaire.cash will be no more. So you might ask, what went wrong?

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Bitcoin Cash is Awesome

Bitcoin Cash is awesome. The community reminds me of how Bitcoin was back in 2013. It’s filled with innovation, creativity and passion for the fundamentals. These are the very fundamentals that will allow crypto to displace the global financial system: scaling, developer access and inclusion. Unlike Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash scales using larger blocks. This is a very simple change in the code, which increases the number of transactions to be processed. It’s a no-brains approach, and probably the reason why Bitcoin Cash is a mid-high top ten coin.

It's Too Early and Niche to Build an Exchange Around Bitcoin Cash

Our approach was simple. We marketed on Reddit, Twitter and Telegram. We didn’t do any paid marketing, and focused on the community to propagate our product. We had excellent traffic from all three.

We built the exchange in twenty weeks. I think that’s our biggest achievement as a company: a fast, secure, stable and scalable trading platform with good UX. We used a variety of technologies: memory-based and relational databases, NodeJS and React, a handful of AWS solutions and advanced (and pricey) logging and security tools.

The Fork

We launched the exchange in the end of September, to huge community uptake. We processed over $50,000 in trading volume and deposits double that in the first 24 hours. This initial result had us energised and motivated. We thought that things would continue at that pace, but they didn’t.

It's Too Early and Niche to Build an Exchange Around Bitcoin Cash
Semyon Germanovich, founder of Voltaire.cash

When Bitcoin Cash forked to form Bitcoin Cash (BCH) and Bitcoin SV (BSV), we lost most of our users. This was a highly damaging event both reputationally and economically. The amount of bad institutional press generated by this event can’t be described.

I find it funny that the leaders of the SV camp think that they are building something people are going to use in the future. The values they promote go against everything Bitcoin stands for. What kind of level-headed tech enthusiast is going to look at the shitshow within this community and think to themselves: “this is totally where I want to put my money.”

The Hunt for Investment

Jamahl McMurran (Head of Growth) and I hustled like never before. Despite the disappointing slowdown, we moved as fast as possible to check off every VC willing to talk to us in London. We had many meetings, but people generally lost interest when they heard Bitcoin Cash. This took me by surprise, because I never considered that our market might be too niche and too fragile — for me, Bitcoin Cash always was and will be the answer.

It's Too Early and Niche to Build an Exchange Around Bitcoin Cash

We never got past first meetings, although a lot of VCs were keen to find out what we were doing. This was until we met Roger Ver from Bitcoin.com. He was excited, and liked Bitcoin Cash (obviously). We were close to making a deal with him, but it never went through. I feel like we didn’t have the numbers to make it happen, despite receiving an offer, negotiations fell apart.

As a founder, I came to the realisation that Voltaire didn’t fail because the product was bad, nor because of bad marketing, but because the market wasn’t there. We made something not a sufficient number of people wanted. As awesome as Bitcoin Cash is, it’s too early and too niche to build an exchange around it.

The End

Running a crypto company is hard. You’re up against regulatory uncertainty, a turbulent market and resistance from financial institutions. It’s risky territory and hard to survive. You only hear about those who do, and rarely about those who don’t. But that’s no excuse. We can only blame ourselves.

I’m still convinced that peer-to-peer electronic cash is the greatest invention since the internet. Here we are, almost a year later. I’m very grateful to all those who deposited and traded on Voltaire, as well as the wider Bitcoin Cash and cryptocurrency community. If you’re interested in buying a high speed, low-latency cryptocurrency exchange supporting most major coins, email me — semyon (at) voltaire.cash. You guys are awesome. Thanks for the journey.

Originally published as Voltaire is Going Offline, by Semyon Germanovich, founder of Voltaire.cash

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