Fireside Chats With Abasa Philips (Zilla) – “Startup Funding & Its Challenges.”

Japan has given us sushi, karaoke, Yamaha motorcycles, and so much more. It’s also given rise to a blockchain company known as Zilla. 

Abasa Philips is best known as the founder of Zilla, a cryptocurrency company building an application that aims to streamline and de-risk the ICO process for contributors. The app features an all-in-one, mobile solution for users to discover, compare, rank, and even participate in whitelistings and ICOs. Users can easily discover more about the project’s team, technology, timeline and token mechanics. ICOs on Zilla attract investors by rewarding them with aidrops via the ZLA token, which can be used to participate in ICOs or to purchase products on the Zilla app.

Abasa was kind enough to spare some time to have a chat about Zilla, and we dug into a few topics surrounding the ICO fundraising process.

Abasa will be joining us at Blocfest as a panelist on the discussion topic: “VC vs ICO: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly”.

Sean: How are you, Abasa? What’s been happening in your world?

Abasa: “Yeah everything’s been fine, thanks. There was a huge blockchain event here in Japan over the past couple days, which has been great — the scene here is still really active, despite how crazy the regulations on exchanges are over here.

In terms of Zilla, we’re doing well. Company-wise we’ve already released the beta versions of our IOS and Android apps. We’re looking to integrate a wallet through our app so users will be able to participate in ICOs, which should be done in under 30 days from now. There will be plenty more use cases for the token once that’s released, so yeah — everything’s full speed ahead right now!”

Sean: How many people have downloaded the app?

Abasa: “So we released our beta about 3 months ago, and we have about 25,000 users and community members who have signed up so far.”

Sean: That’s an impressive number for such a short period of time! The app feels and works great, my first impressions were that it’s incredibly user-friendly. It’s nice to have a platform that houses all these handy features for investors.

Abasa: “Yeah I mean I started Zilla because I noticed that the 3 main routes of attack for scammers were through chat apps like Slack and Telegram. You’ve got bad actors pretending to be ‘team members’, there are those faking company airdrops and wallet scams, and you’ve also got scammers making fake copies of ICO websites.

So I figured, if we could build an app that houses the chat, the wallet and the official ICO information, then we can mitigate most of the risk that comes with investing in ICOs.”

Abasa Phillips, founder and chief executive officer of Primo Inc., poses for a photograph in Tokyo, Japan, on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

Sean: The private Telegram ‘ICO’ raised $1.7billion, and is considered to be the largest in ICO history. They cancelled their public sales, with many speculating various reasons as to why. Some say it was due to new SEC regulations, others simply say it was a case of them just having raised enough to complete the project. What lessons have we learnt as an industry about the way the Telegram ‘ICO’ was run?

Abasa: “In my opinion it was never really an ICO — it was VC fundraiser under the veil of an ICO. You’re seeing this with a lot of companies, where founders or early backers are looking for a quick exit.

Raising over several billion dollars in Ether for some of these companies is not really that interesting or transformative as far as I’m concerned — they could’ve raised the entire thing through VC anyway… I don’t really see these types of projects really progressing the cryptocurrency ‘ethos’ — if anything, it is damaging to the market. That also goes for companies that have year long ICOs.. I just don’t really see the point of it. It becomes nothing more than a money grab.

But I feel the market will figure itself out over time.”

Sean: I hope so, too. With ICOs being all the rage lately, does VC fundraising still have a place?

Abasa: “VC’s have a very strong due diligence process, plus the metrics and what they look at to evaluate these companies — typically they’re quite strong. They’ll properly dig into what the team are doing, and fully assess the market for the product that they’re building.”

Sean: In your personal opinion, what are the most attractive features about the ICO process?

Abasa: “For me the interesting part of an ICO is the crowdfunding aspect, and the fact that if you’re successful, you not only receive the required capital to start, but you also gain access to active users who are more engaged in the community.

With ICOs, they typically comprise of cryptocurrency companies who are building cool, innovative tech and often, there’s not necessarily a market for them yet.

But that’s one cool thing about ICOs, companies that would have never had the chance to raise capital through VC are now able to do so.

I was on a panel recently, with Steve Nerayoff. He was on the team with Vitalik back when he was doing his early roadshows for Ethereum. He told me that they were approaching VCs initially and even got some pretty solid interest from them..but in the end they decided on going entirely ICO. I mean, they were trying to decentralise, so… if the real purpose of cryptocurrency is to decentralise then there is little point going the VC route at all.”

Sean : To even be considered for a token sale, it is now common for an individual to have to submit a passport scan, bank statement, and various other documents — there are even cases where users have to answer questions about their background and are asked to describe the origin of bitcoin.  What is your personal stance on KYC, do you feel it is a practical solution for helping cryptocurrency companies meet regulation standards?

Abasa: “Yeah it’s interesting. For Zilla, we’re actually just about to launch a KYC solution where we’ll do KYC for free, for all companies who list on Zilla. We can do that at scale because our users are typically participating in multiple ICOs. So we do KYC on them once and there is no need for them to keep doing it over and over again.

So, that’s the user experience everyone is kind of waiting for.

The thing is with ICOs is that you could be participating with as little as $5, $20 etc… unless you’re contributing upwards of $10,000 then there really shouldn’t be a need for KYC.

There is of course the issue of money laundering, but noone’s going to be laundering money in small amounts, so I think the burden of setting up KYC for anything under $10,000 is just a bit ridiculous in my opinion.”

Sean: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us, Abasa. What are you looking forward to most about Blocfest?

Abasa: “Connecting with other crypto entrepreneurs, Zilla fans — we have employees in Indonesia and other areas across Southeast Asia so it’ll be nice to bring them along too. Thanks!”

Find out more about Zilla here.

Connect with Abasa on Twitter here.

Abasa will be joining us at Blocfest as a panelist on the discussion topic: “VC vs ICO: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly”. Hear from him and many other thought-leaders as we deep-dive into all things blockchain this September.

With a raft of respected blockchain thought-leaders from Malaysia and around the world set to feature, Blocfest’s focus will be on blockchain’s immense potential in the Southeast Asian region, where the technology has already made great headway.

Blocfest is set to launch 26-27 September, and guests are invited to also join us for KL Blockchain Week.

Find out more about our speakers by clicking here.

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