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Politics, Culture Among Hurdles for Institutional Crypto

Traders Magazine Online News, October 25, 2018

Rob Daly

Traders Magazine's sister publication Markets Media recently caught up with Derek Urben, CFO and director of business development at Coinigy to discuss how it is more than trading technology that is keeping institutional crypto investment at bay.

As Coinigy's CFO and director of business development, what are your primary day-to-day responsibilities?
Business development takes up the largest chunk of my day. This includes B2B partnerships, joint research partnerships, and marketing deals, among other things. I also handle most of the admin, operational, back office, accounting, and HR work for Coinigy.

Which projects are keeping you the busiest these days?

Data partnerships are a big force right now. Coinigy is the market leader in crypto exchange data — we have collected more than four years of raw tick data across more than 50 exchanges and thousands of markets. We do, however, understand that there is a plethora of other data out there. We have some upcoming partnership announcements that we are excited about, which will enable us to provide our clients important datasets beyond trading data. There are also many initiatives down the road on the data front. We will be announcing a partnership with a global market data leader to aid Coinigy’s data distribution efforts in the coming weeks.

Why is the company based in Milwaukee? The city doesn’t grab a lot of crypto headlines, but what does it offer that coastal crypto hotspots do not?
The two co-founders, Rob and William, are Wisconsinites — born and raised. The classic question, “is it better to be a big fish in a small pond, or a small fish in a big pond?” is quite appropriate for our situation. We are the largest crypto operation in Milwaukee, while still being a relatively small company, which creates some cool opportunities locally. If we were in The Valley or NYC, it would be more challenging to get the local attention we draw since the space is far more crowded in those regions. Being 90 minutes away from Chicago is highly beneficial as well, as Chicago is quickly becoming the trading capital of the crypto world.

Buy-side executives often cite the lack of professional grade “infrastructure” and trading tools as the reasons they have not dived into crypto trading. How do you respond to these concerns?
Most large-scale buy-side firms build out many of their trading tools themselves. The exchange venue infrastructure, therefore, is the roadblock here, as we at Coinigy know full well. Exchange APIs are still quite weak, slow, poorly maintained, and unreliable, and there is a general theme we have seen where exchanges are platform-first and not API-first companies.

Another common concern along the same lines is the need for an exchange-traded fund to bring true retail money to crypto. I have never understood this concern for two reasons:

First, bitcoin/crypto is trying to get away from the over-institutionalization of financial securities. ETFs are the epitome of this institutionalization and, arguably, the reason for many modern-day traditional market inefficiencies, systemic risks, and structural issues.

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