The star of today’s interview is Lorne Lantz from Formosa Financial. He is a passionate blockchain entrepreneur and educator who has built multiple financial startups that have won awards with PayPal and Swift. He has been programming for over 20 years and has extensive knowledge in banking, payments and Bitcoin.
He is currently CTO of Formosa Financial, a team focused on building a one-stop digital asset management platform. We had the pleasure of asking him a few questions on the project, how he got started in the crypto space, his experience with Roger Ver, what are some of his favorite coins, and his thoughts on the future.
Q: Hi Lorne, thank you for joining us today. We’re all curious as to how you got into crypto? How did you hear about it?
A: Thanks for having me! As for how I got into crypto, back in 2012, I was working on a mobile wallet app, and the guy sitting right next to me was running Bitcoin meetups in San Francisco. One day he asked if I wanted to join, which I did. At the time Bitcoin had crashed from $24 to $4, after the Bitcoinica hack. At the meetup, Roger Ver was showing growth charts of BitInstant’s 2 months of business, Jared McKenna was planning to set up a cold storage facility at 20Mission, Brian Armstrong and Coinbase had just started YCombinator, and recently opened their first bank account. The vibe in the room felt like there was something special happening here.
Q: Wow, 2012 is fairly early in the crypto space and you also got to meet up with Roger Ver. How was the early version of Roger like?
A: Yeah, I was fortunate enough to get in quite early. A few months later, I was in Japan attending Sibos, and the only person I knew there was Roger Ver. I spent an afternoon with him talking about Bitcoin and instead of him paying for his lunch bill he asked me to pay it with cash, and he paid me back through Bitcoin. That was the first Bitcoin I ever received, and it was his way of evangelizing Bitcoin.
From there I tried a few different Bitcoin projects including building one of the first POS machines to accept Bitcoin. Then O’Reilly Media asked me to be the technical editor for the “Mastering Bitcoin” book and to help create a series of videos on Bitcoin and the blockchain.
Q: What is the first coin you got in to?
A: I’m so old school that when I was first got interested in the crypto space, there were only Bitcoin and Litecoin on the market. In 2013 I mined Litecoin for a few months by using AWS servers but quickly realized that wasn’t profitable… First of all, Litecoin was only worth $3 at the time.
In 2014 I built an arbitrage bot on Ripple, which had around 10 currencies trading on it. The bot worked well at low scale for about 6 months and then the opportunities quickly went away when the price of Bitcoin stabilized.
Q: Ok, now that we know more about you personally, let’s move on to your role with Formosa Financial. Can you explain a bit about what you do there?
A: I am the Chief Technology Officer. I lead the engineering team and focus on building Formosa Financial’s digital asset management platform. In addition to being responsible for the company’s core technology, my duties include:
Leading the engineering team in designing, programming and defining the scope of all parts of our platform, including and especially the backend, which contains sensitive customer information
Hiring, leading and making sure the engineering team stays on track and on schedule
Q: In one sentence, can you tell us what is Formosa Financial?
A: A platform making financial services available to crypto assets holders (such as blockchain innovators and high net-worth individuals) to help manage their assets.
Q: What is Formosa Financial trying to achieve?
A: Make it easier for users to manage their crypto assets through an all-in-one service platform, so they can spend time focusing on their core strengths rather than getting bogged down trying to manage their crypto holdings through separated methods.
Q: How can you improve treasury management in Crypto and how do actual custody and security measures look like?
The first step is providing a secure and convenient place for people to store their digital assets and fiat. The next step is to provide them with a convenient method to convert their funds into different currencies. This service would make it easier for users to pay their expenses, maintain awareness of their holdings, and have more time to spend on running their business.
Over 95% of users’ funds in our custody will reside in cold storage. We rely on BitGo and its secure video identification process to keep those funds secure and move them out of cold storage when it’s necessary (for example, upon when a user submits a withdrawal order). The remaining funds reside in hot storage and require a 2/3 multi-signature transaction to move the funds.
Q: Goldman Sachs announced they will use Bakkt’s custody service, Fidelity launched an institutional platform and custody for cryptocurrencies. How will Formosa coexist with traditional finance players in the space?
A: In the early phases of the platform, Formosa Financial is focusing on servicing companies in the blockchain space. Bakkt and Fidelity are focused on institutional clients who have very different business requirements. This is another example of the market for trading in digital assets continuing to grow. In this case, institutional investors in the US have unique requirements around compliance and regulation specific to the US, and those 2 companies should be well positioned to service those unique needs of their clients engaging in this market.
At Formosa Financial, our team collectively has the unique experience of both having raised through a private sale in this space and worked in the industry for many years, which together allows us to know firsthand how to satisfy the unique needs of our clients through custody, brokerage and risk management.
Q: I understand that you guys have an FMF token. Can you explain more about it and how it will drive adoption in crypto?
A: The FMF token will act as the gas that powers the greater financial ecosystem built around the platform. Like using Gmail, users don’t have to go through the rigorous process of setting up an email server, our users will not need to go through the rigorous process of managing their private keys.
Our users also won’t have to leave the platform for FMF tokens, because our backend trading bots plug into multiple exchanges that trade FMF, and if our users want to get FMF, we execute all the heavy lifting of acquiring the FMF and then storing it securely through our managed custody. All the user will have to do is identify through the platform how much FMF they want and how they want to use that FMF.
Q: You guys have some strong partnerships with various different entities. How do you integrate all the partners together into the platform?
A: Before writing a line of code we knew that the platform could be the base layer of a larger financial ecosystem, and would have integrations into many other financial systems.
In order to make our platform flexible enough to integrate differing APIs and blockchains we specifically designed our database in a way that allows for the addition of new datasets without possibly corrupting existing data or stored procedures in the platform. This method of compartmentalizing various parts of the platform ensures we can add on new integrations to the platform while maintaining a high level of reliability.
Q: What is your favorite altcoin project? Why?
A: I have always been a fan of Augur (REP). Months before they held their ICO I witnessed firsthand as they built their v1, as I was one of their roommates in the Cryptocastle. Throughout that time you could see how determined they were in actually solving the problem prediction markets have.
The other reason I like REP is that they are one of the few tokens to have a product in production and iterating on their product/market fit, which I think space needs more of.
Q: What is your view of ICOs moving forward in 2019?
A: I think ICOs fundamentally changed the way startups think about raising capital, however, I still think it is in the early stages and more importantly there is a need for a set of standards to be implemented into the space to keep out the bad actors from exploiting vulnerabilities in the ICO ecosystem.
The exciting part for me is to see that new business models and community management strategies are continually being created in this space. For example, how Quantstamp rewards its community who provide proof-of-caring with airdrops of tokens they acquire from their customers.
If you are interested to learn more about the project, check it out at https://www.formosa.financial/