Startup opens Bitcoin-only margin trading platform

When you mix an experienced banker, entrepreneur, and Bitcoin together, what do you get? A new-age, self-funded trading platform that reaches profitability in only 1.5 months.
Written by Michael Lee, Contributor

When someone who works in the financial management industry quits a highly secure job to create a startup, it usually signals that they are either crazy or on to something good. In Joseph Lee's case, it's more likely the latter, with the soon-to-be ex-banker using his experience to bet on the future of Bitcoin.

Lee is no stranger to Bitcoin. An early adopter of the crypto-currency, he expanded his portfolio to include Bitcoin as a small experiment, but it wasn't long before it paid off and represented almost 90 percent of his investments.

And now he thinks that anyone else should be able to speculate on the value of the Bitcoin themselves, but without the risks that he and others have faced during their experimental days. Currently, if an investor wishes to trade on a Bitcoin exchange like Mt Gox, they need to manage one or more traditional currencies along with their Bitcoin currency, increasing the complexity and potential risk to them.

To overcome this, Lee has developed a margin trading platform, Btc.sx, that is completely void of all currencies other than Bitcoin. Trades are placed in Bitcoin, payouts are in Bitcoin, and the deposit required to open a position on the platform is in Bitcoin.

The second core feature of Lee's platform is that it is focused on margin trading, allowing investors to use additional investment to leverage their existing Bitcoin and increase their payouts. As with all margin trading platforms, this multiplies the reward for investment decisions that pay off, and also multiplies the risk involved if the market turns sour.

However, Btc.sx's requirement of a deposit to open a position determines how much of a bet size an investor can make, and also allows them to limit their total exposure.

"If the market moves against them in a very strong way, then I act as the counter-party to manage that risk. If I lose more than what my client puts down as a deposit, then it will come out of my pocket. I will never charge the client more than their deposit for that position," Lee said.

It effectively allows investors to place bets on how the value of Bitcoin will move, either by taking a long or short position, and for the first 24 hours of trading, leverage is provided free of charge. Btc.sx charges 0.1 percent each day thereafter for gearing.

Lee began work on the platform just nine months ago as a single founder, and after investing AU$150,000 of his own money into it, launched it three months ago. One and a half months ago, it reached profitability, giving him the push to leave his job at Macquarie Bank.

Venture capitalists have also seen promise in Lee's platform, with Lee already receiving multiple offers, but he told ZDNet that it isn't necessarily just money that he's looking for.

"I'd consider funding to be a small part of what I'm after when it comes to backing. I understand that the money is relatively easy to get if not from Australia [then] from Silicon Valley, as they love this space at the moment. What I'm really after is the knowledge to help drive growth of the business," he said.

Lee is aiming for between AU$500,000 and AU$1 million for his first round of funding, aiming to spend it on not only building out his business, but also hopefully providing a secondary benefit of improving the reputation of Bitcoin in general.

He said that when Bitcoin first emerged as a currency, there was too much focus on the parallel market use, but today, its more legitimate uses have been recognised through wider adoption and the discussions currently occurring around regulation.

"There are a lot of people who are afraid of regulation ... but what the world should be doing is getting excited about the word regulation when it is mentioned in the same sentence as Bitcoin," Lee said.

"The more regulation that comes to the Bitcoin world, the more legitimacy it will bring to Bitcoin as a currency."

Lee is also using his own business as an example of how it is possible to use Bitcoin for more legitimate purposes. He already pays his own salary partially in Bitcoin, and said that if his future employees wish to be remunerated in Bitcoin, he would do so — but only with the proviso that all transactions could be declared, audited, and traced.

"Just like the Australian dollar has respective laws about tracking and compliance, I'd like my customers to know that we don't have interest in operating in pure grey areas.

"There are lot of people that want to keep things off the radar, but I encourage anyone that wants to cash out their Bitcoin to declare their earnings in Bitcoin as capital gains," he said.

On the security side of things, Lee's platform doesn't maintain the use of a hot wallet for trades. As soon as Bitcoins are deposited, they are sent to offline vaults, meaning that should the platform come under attack, users' funds are not left vulnerable to theft.

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