- Sean Rach tells us how Hi is positioning to make blockchain accessible to billions.
- He highlights interoperability as one of the cornerstones of bringing Web3 to the masses.
- And offers a few tips to startups looking to fundraise in the current bear market.
The debate about whether crypto is really the future of payments continues amid the current bear market, yet there are those who believe it is far more than that. One of the people backing crypto to succeed is Sean Rach, the co-founder of Hi, a super app that offers a range of products including banking and crypto exchange services.
Last year’s crypto volatility highlighted the nature of the industry, also raising more questions about regulation. The collapse of major crypto companies like FTX, Voyager Digital and Three Arrows Capital were key examples of why proper regulation is needed to take the industry to the next level.
However, with different countries holding different news about the industry, some countries like Singapore and Hong Kong have become potential hubs for crypto and Web3 startups amid their clear regulatory framework.
That is one of the reasons more blockchain companies appear to be trooping into Asia, according to Rach, who told NFTgators that it is not just a matter of having a favourable regulatory framework, but “but more about clear regulation which offers the opportunity to tap into a dynamic market.”
His company recently received a $30 million investment from Animoca Brands, one of the leading Web3 investment companies. It also holds a multi-year partnership with the global payments giant MasterCard, which creates an avenue for the mass onboarding of users to Web3.
This fundraising alongside Polychain Capital’s $200 million and CoinFund’s $158 million come at a time when the crypto industry is in a bear market. Rach thinks the current market situation makes it difficult to fundraise, but not impossible.
In this Q&A, he delves more into the debate about the future of crypto and what needs to happen for the industry to realise its full potential.
Please tell us about yourself and the story behind hi.
I am a Co-Founder at hi, the ultimate Web3 ecosystem bridging DeFi and TradFi. Our mission is to make blockchain technology accessible to billions, empowering them to have control over their finances and digital experiences while seamlessly connecting the universe and metaverse.
Our goal in our first phase of growth is to make the world’s most user-friendly and functional crypto and fiat app, powered by Web3.
There are 3 barriers we aim to overcome, and that differentiate hi in the space:
- Overly complex user experiences: Convoluted sign-up processes, difficult KYC experiences and jargon-filled apps.
- Fiat-crypto challenge: easily converting your traditional currency into crypto, and then withdrawing or spending that crypto anywhere.
- Fragmented DeFi landscape: DeFi represents a world of opportunity for taking control of your money, yet extant products and services exist across disparate, non-trusted platforms.
hi provides the everyday essentials—payments, transfers, and high-level lifestyle, travel, and financial benefits—while maintaining the integrity of a decentralized network. All are accessible via our Super App. Essentially, we’re basically making it as easy as saying “hi” to get involved in the crypto space.
I have extensive experience in marketing, but my crypto journey began in full in 2017 when I joined Crypto.com as CMO. Despite a bull market continuing into early 2018, the crypto landscape still felt like an exclusive club.
That’s where hi’s story begins. We co-founded Hi with the goal of breaking down the barriers that make financial services feel like an elite party you’re not invited to.
Your company has an ongoing partnership with Mastercard. How important is the role of the mainstream financial services sector in advancing Web3 adoption?
Our collaboration with Mastercard isn’t just a business venture; it’s an educational bridge between traditional finance and Web3. By introducing a Crypto Fiat Debit Card, we’re offering a tangible, real-world application for crypto assets, making them more relatable and accessible. By offering the world’s first NFT-customizable Debit Card, we’re innovating in a space traditionally dominated by incumbents.
Partnering with industry giants like Mastercard is critical for mass adoption. It lends credibility and adds a layer of trust that solo crypto initiatives often lack. This isn’t just about immediate profits. It’s about gradually introducing Web3 to the mainstream, helping people understand its potential and relevance in their lives. It’s about setting the stage for a future where decentralized finance is as familiar as your morning coffee.
You recently received $30 million from Animoca Brands. Any tips for new startups looking to raise funds under current market conditions? What does this fundraising make your company feel amid the bear market?
Securing $30 million from Animoca Brands, especially in a bear market, gives us both validation and momentum. It’s not just about funding, it’s a partnership anchored in a shared vision for Web3’s future. And in a challenging market, it shows us we’re going in the right direction.
For new projects navigating these tricky bear market waters, my advice is simple. Have a clear, compelling vision and be committed to long-term change. Quick gains can be appealing, but they won’t sustain you.
A bear market can actually be very revealing—it shows who is genuinely committed to Web3 and who’s just in for a quick profit. So, focus on the long haul and you’ll attract investors and partners who see the larger picture just like you do.
Hi recently received a licence from the Hong Kong SFC for a crypto trading platform. Do you see crypto regulation as an obstacle or a catalyst for the mass adoption of Web3? And why are more crypto companies increasingly becoming drawn to Asia?
Receiving a license from Hong Kong’s SFC will be a milestone for us. To be clear, at this point, we have been grandfathered as an existing operator prior to full licensing in mid-2024 (if all goes well).
Far from being an obstacle, we see regulation as a catalyst for the mass adoption of Web3 because regulation brings legitimacy. It’s a signal to both institutional and individual participants that this space is governed by rules, creating a safety net that encourages crypto-curious users to try it out.
As for the pull toward Asia, there are multiple factors at play. Firstly, hotspots Singapore and Hong Kong have been very proactive in creating a regulatory framework that accommodates crypto innovations but always with a healthy amount of compliance requirements. Secondly, the region has a large, tech-savvy population eager to adopt new technologies.
So, in essence, the movement towards Asia isn’t just about favourable regulation but more about clear regulation which offers the opportunity to tap into a dynamic market.
You call Hi a Super App. What exactly does that mean for the average non-crypto native user?
Calling Hi a Super App really boils down to one thing: you don’t have to know crypto to get real benefits. It’s an all-in-one app for not just financial services, but also lifestyle perks like travel benefits, rebates, and cashback. hi gently introduces crypto-newbies to the crypto world. Before you know it, you’re earning and learning about crypto, all while enjoying tangible perks in your daily life.
For us, this is what true adoption looks like not bombarding users with jargon or making our members adapt to us. hi’s Super App fits into our community’s life, catching their curiosity, and then revealing a new layer of financial potential they didn’t know they could tap into. That’s what we’re aiming for with hi—a smooth entry into the Web3 world, wrapped up in everyday convenience.
Your mission is to build a platform that brings about fluid interoperability between the universe and metaverse. How important is interoperability between blockchains in building communities in Web3?
Without interoperability, we risk creating isolated projects that don’t talk to each other, stunting innovation and community engagement. But when blockchains can interact, you’re not just a member of one network; you’re part of a vast, interconnected universe. It’s this flexibility that can jumpstart organic growth, creating a richer, more inclusive experience for users.
In our mission at hi, we see interoperability not as an optional feature but as a fundamental building block. By bridging the universe and the metaverse, we’re aiming for a more unified, accessible, and empowering digital realm for everyone.
How best would you describe the metaverse? And is it all a pipedream like some suggest?
The metaverse is like a digital universe where you can work, socialize, and own valuable assets. It’s not just for tech enthusiasts; it’s the next step for the internet, designed for everyone.
At hi, we’re aiming to create a seamless experience between this digital universe and the real world. We envision an ecosystem where over a billion people can genuinely live, both online and offline. As Hi grows, it will transition into a DAO, meaning governance will be in the hands of our community, those who hold HI tokens. So we’re not just building a product, we’re crafting a community-driven universe, powered by blockchain.
Is crypto the future of payments?
For us, crypto isn’t just the future of payments—it’s the future of finance, period. Traditional payment systems are often slow, expensive, and stalled by middlemen. Crypto has the power to streamline all of this, offering faster transactions and reduced fees. But it’s not just about making existing processes more efficient; it’s about opening new doors.
But we’re not there yet. The user experience in crypto payments still has its hurdles—transaction times, volatility, and so on. But these are solvable problems. As we shift from viewing crypto solely as an investment to seeing it as a tool, we’ll come closer to mass adoption. At hi, that’s our goal.
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