Interview With Michael Chobanian, Founder Of KUNA Agency
Interview with Michael Chobanian, the founder of the KUNA agency, the KUNA stock exchange, the “Crypto Hryvnia” project, the “Blockchain Hub” co-working, the social innovation fund “Crypto Rous”, the member of the Blockchain Association of Ukraine.
Within the framework of the Blockchain Summit Kiev conference, the Blockspoint journalist asked questions to Michael Chobanian concerning the cryptocurrency sphere.
Why did you find this idea so attractive to you?
It wasn’t just an attractive idea, but it was a project worth worth implementing.
Because it includes, among other things, the national interest of the State.
So if I understand correctly, it concerns not only Ukraine but many other countries.
Many countries monitor our work, and we have absolutely all the necessary resources and conditions to launch such a project.
Is Ukraine interesting for other countries?
Of course, it is. Am I wrong? We have a lot of blockchain specialists, we can compete with other states.
How can the implementation of cryptocurrencies help the state, users?
For users, there will be instant payments without restrictions via the 24/7 system, that will be around the clock and without problems. As for the state, there will be a transparent fast economy to operate not from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., as a banking system, but within 24 hours. International partners will have the opportunity to work with our economy, buying crypto hryvnias not through bank auctions, but by all possible means. Accordingly, we can expand the range of application of the national currency or tokens, and to know the targeting of funds, where crypto hryvnia is sent.
Some banks, not only Privat, will soon introduce a similar system — pay 24/7. Why should there be a choice in favor of cryptocurrencies?
When you open, for example, the application "Privat", you are tied to a specific bank, but with crypto hryvnia, a client is attached only to the payment unit. He can create his wallet and attach to this additional wallets or services. As for PrivatBank, it gives you an app, which you use without adding something on our own, because there are services of a certain bank. Everything is different with crypto hryvnia, you create a wallet, use the standard protocol and manage all processes on your own.
Is there a risk that the national cryptocurrency can become a way of manipulation? All the same, our state aspires to a centralized control system.
Certainly. All states tend to be centralized.
But this is contrary to the idea of cryptomoney.
Now we are talking about the government, but I'm talking about crypto hryvnia and about us as citizens, so you need to make a choice. If you want to be a slave of some official — ok, it’s your choice, but if you desire to be a free person and determine the vector of development of your country, you have to choose something else. You need to determine. I'm not worried about the fact that officials do not like something, I don't see a problem here.
Then name the three most important problems that cryptocurrencies can solve in Ukraine.
Firstly, the problem of inappropriate use of funds, the opacity of financial flows. Secondly, the country's leadership will be able to see what is happening with the economy and react more quickly to the situation in real time. Thirdly, the velocity of money, this is a very important economic indicator — the faster the money turnover is, the faster the economy develops. That is economic growth, good governance of the country and only targeted use of the budget. There won’t be so-called "sawing" anymore.
You stated that there are currently two initiatives to create a national cryptocurrency — yours and the National Bank. Evaluate the pros and cons of both.
My original idea was to create cryptocurrency from the National Bank. I offered them an idea, and they started to run it. But, since it's still a bureaucratic machine, I saw a number of problems. All processes are very slow, many decisions lack political willpower, moreover, on the part of officials, there is an enormous number of delays that slow development and, most importantly, integration. As a result, I decided not to miss the opportunity, the time and I made a fork, as in cryptocurrencies, and I started an independent development with my team. It's called crypto hryvnia. The National Bank calls it e-hryvnia. So, there is crypto hryvnia, and there is e-grivna.
How did you come to IT-technologies and cryptocurrencies?
Initially, I was engaged in telecommunications. There I saw that many people were leaving for the mobile market. Then I had a digital marketing agency, where I learned about bitcoin. I was influenced by these factors and, beginning in 2013, I have been working exclusively with bitcoin, blockchain, and the development of infrastructure projects.
Tell us a little about your stock exchange. Do you have, for example, pairs with both crypto and fiat money?
Of course. The main pair is bitcoin-hryvnia. There’s a dozen of cryptocurrencies, such as ether, Dash, Litecoin. All of them are traded in the hryvnia.
Is it in Eastern Europe?
Now we are talking about Ukraine by 90% because the currency is the hryvnia. We have not yet introduced the hryvnia in Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, so they do not work with us yet. But soon we will add new fiat pairs, there will be Russian and Belarusian rubles, lari, manat. We will expand.
And what kind of fiat money do you have on the stock exchange?
Currently, there is only the hryvnia. As I said, we plan to enter the market of Belarus, Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Turkey. In the future, perhaps, we will expand to the European countries that are part of the European Union, for example, Serbia and some Balkan states.
Each time, when fiat money enters the crypto exchange, the questions of regulation appear...
In our case, there are no questions and problems, because we, as a stock exchange, do not hold funds. We have a platform that allows individuals to exchange among themselves in an automatic mode, and we make the technical connection between these transactions. That means that we do not keep the fiat part.
What is your prediction concerning crypto exchanges? What the future holds?
There will be new decentralized exchanges on new protocols. Traditional exchanges will have many problems with the dollar and the euro.
This is the policy of financial regulators, in particular, in the United States. They will tighten the screws.
Why do they have such an unusual attitude toward cryptomarket?
What do you mean?
Many processes are not regulated.
Here is the same attitude. The state is a big and slow machine which won’t lead to the revolution, so do not wait for something from the government. Innovations should appear among entrepreneurs who must communicate their interests to the state, and that’s what we do in Ukraine. I do not expect that representatives of the National Bank, the Securities Commission or the Verkhovna Rada will do something for me. We are acting — we created an association, we are working on the draft laws, we have many working groups. All the processes are very active, so I think that we will have a draft bill by the end of the year.
What do you expect from the bitcoin rate which fell sharply in December, but currently we have to mention its positive growth…
I do not care about the bitcoin price. I'm interested in ideology and technology, but how much will bitcoin cost... Who cares?
Let’s talk about cryptomats. Do we have them in Ukraine?
Oh, sure. Last week we presented the final version of the cryptomat model. We currently bring it to Lvov, Dnieper, Ivano-Frankovsk and a few other cities, but only in Ukraine. We are working on software, and I think we will send it abroad.
What does a cryptomat give to an average person who, perhaps, is not familiar with cryptocurrencies? What will it bring to his life?
Speed and simplicity. For example, a person has a mind to buy cryptocurrency but does not know how. He does not trust online exchanges or banks, but using terminal he will have an opportunity to deposit and buy cryptocurrency, and this process will be so simple just like to recharge a mobile account. At the moment, there is the only bitcoin in the cryptomat, but afterwards, there will be all the pairs that are on the KUNA exchange: ether, Dash, Litecoin, Stellar, Ripple, Waves, Golos. Currently, we have more than ten cryptocurrencies and we add something every day.
Is Ukraine attractive to investors in the crypto field and IT and how much?
In both cases, I mean cryptocurrencies and IT technologies, I will say no, because we are at war. But the teams and projects are really attractive. There are many of them in Ukraine, I will not call them to avoid advertising.
Vira Maliy, Blockspoint