This week, we sat down with Poramin Insom, founder and CEO of Satang, our partner in Thailand, to discuss his business, vision, and outlook on the state of cryptocurrency in Thailand.
Poramin is most known as the founder and lead developer of Zcoin. A software engineer by training, he returned to Thailand after completing his Masters at Johns Hopkins University and in 2017 founded Satang Corporation, a digital asset services provider in Thailand.
OKLink: Poramin, thank you so much for spending time with us. Can you tell us about your background and your team?
Poramin: I am the founder and CEO of Satang. I have a team of four people – including one CTO and two software developer. My background is in computer engineering. I got into cryptocurrency while studying for my Masters in Security Informatics at Johns Hopkins University. In order to learn more about the subject I created a cryptocurrency to learn how the mechanism and blockchain works. During that time I created Zcoin, which is a cryptocurrency based on Zerocoin protocol. It was actually a capstone project I had to complete in order to graduate, but the project ended up attracting some bitcoin celebrity investors like Roger Ver and others.
If you want to find out more about Zcoin, read this other interview here.
OKLink: In 2017, you had again tapped your entrepreneurial streak and founded Satang Corporation in Thailand. What is Satang trying to achieve?
Poramin: When I came back from the U.S. I decided to create my own company in Thailand that focus on bitcoin and blockchain because in Thailand there wasn’t any blockchain company yet at that time.
Satang is a bitcoin application wallet that integrates social features into the bitcoin wallet. It is somewhat modelled after Venmo, a popular social payment platform in the U.S. You can send money to your friends or do split payment with this application. When I was living in the States my friends always used Venmo to pay money back each other after having dinner or lunch.
My idea is why don’t we integrate Venmo’s social features into a bitcoin wallet because usually people find bitcoin quite hard to understand and used primarily by traders. So I try to create the platform that makes bitcoin easier to access for people in Thailand. That is my primary goal. We are planning to integrate Ethereum, Zcoin and other cryptocurrency like Ripple in a few months’ time.
OKLink: Why do you think people would actually use bitcoin to share payments rather than tradition methods?
Poramin: That’s a really good question. Because we do believe in bitcoin and in fact all cryptocurrencies. We believe it will become one of the major currencies in the world and that vision plays into why we do what we do in the first place. But in order to achieve that we need to create an ecosystem that is necessary for mass adoption and we want to be a part of that ecosystem.
OKLink: How receptive are people in Thailand to bitcoin – are they quick to adapt and use?
Poramin: Not really, from our transactions and observation they just want to buy and sell, and sometimes make cross-border transactions. But we have yet seen mass adoption of bitcoin in day-to-day consumption and transfers between friends. Part of this may be related to the lengthy confirmation time required for small transactions, which according to bitcoin rule should take 10 minutes but right now take up to one or two hours.
So, while our goal is to focus on social payments locally in Thailand, we have evolved to focus on cross-border transactions due to the obvious advantage of using blockchain technologies in this space. That said, we are hopeful that the number of local people that know about bitcoin and use it will grow over time.
OKLink: Interesting. So you actually want Satang to be a social app where people share taxi bills and things like that using cryptocurrency; while processing remittances is just one of the services you offer but not the main one.
How did you decide to partner with OKLink?
Poramin: Some of your representatives contacted us via email. You are affiliated with OKCoin which we already have transactions with, and we thought that partnering with OKLink will open our market to operating remittance and not only bitcoin wallet. What OKLink is valuable for us is you connect us to the remittance industries in the world.
OKLink: What are some of the biggest challenges so far in building Satang?
Poramin: I would say I have two challenges. The first one is a technical challenge because, in Thailand, we don’t have many qualified software engineers. There is a culture of buying software from other countries and a lack of innovation, which means it is quite hard to find software engineer to develop our platform from scratch. So what I do is I find people who just graduated from university and train them in-house, and that education process takes time.
The second issue is liquidity. There are lots of restrictions in Thailand for startups like us to grow further. For example if we want to operate as money transmitter we would need to have at least 7 million USD just for the license. In Thailand, there are only two licensed money transmitters: the first one is Central, a top shopping mall operator in Thailand, and the other is the post office. Central also has shopping malls in Germany, France, and Italy. In Vietnam, they have shopping malls, hotels and other businesses. As you can see, the bar is pretty high.
OKLink: Do you have any investors in Satang?
Poramin: Not yet, but we are talking to banks right now. They want to have a stake in us because they know that eventually bitcoin is going to come, whether than wait and see, they want to invest right now.
OKLink: So far how many people have been using Satang? What kind of growth are you experiencing?
Poramin: Right now it’s around 2,000, and we expect the user base to grow to 10,000 by the end of this year.
OKLink: Nice. How do you plan to achieve the 10,000 target by the end of this year?
Poramin: As of now we haven’t done that much advertising, for example only on Google but not Facebook. And as you know Facebook users in Thailand is number two after Indonesia, if I’m not mistaken. And we also haven’t started our referral program yet. We have so many more opportunities to do marketing and PR, and that is our plan in the line in order to achieve that number.
OKLink: It definitely sounds like a lot of potential growth in that regard. On that note, that’s all the questions we have and once again, thank you so much for your time!
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