- Julian Sawyer, who co-founded Starling Bank, is the chief executive of crypto exchange Bitstamp.
- Sawyer told Insider about the expansion plans he has for the world’s oldest active crypto exchange.
- He also shared three types of cryptocurrencies with real-world use cases that he’s excited about.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
As a 20-year management consultant-turned co-founder of a digital bank, Julian Sawyer does not seem like the kind of person destined to run a crypto exchange, but he sure has all the critical skills to propel it to the next level.
In May 2015, Sawyer cofounded UK-based Starling Bank and served as its chief operating officer until 2019 when he joined Gemini — the crypto exchange launched by the Winklevoss twins — as managing director of Europe.
“It was an amazing experience for four and a half years,” Sawyer said in an interview. “I learned everything from how to get a banking license, how to get your first customer, how to build the product, how to make it safe and secure, and everything else.”
Then one day, he got a call from a headhunter about an opportunity he could not refuse — to become the chief executive of Bitstamp.
Founded in August 2011 by Nejc Kodrič and Damijan Merlak in a Slovenian garage with two laptops and 1000 euros, Bitstamp was pitched as a Europe-focused alternative to the then world’s largest bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, which collapsed in a massive hacking scandal.
Despite having suffered similar but less severe hacking disruptions, Bitstamp has emerged as the world’s longest-running active crypto exchange.
‘A dangerous distraction’
While the public debut of Coinbase has paved the way for other industry players, Sawyer thinks that pursuing an initial public offering now would be “a dangerous distraction” for Bitstamp.
“We’ve got a lot to do within the business and there’s a lot to do within the industry,” he said. “For us to go down the IPO route right now would be a distraction.”
Instead, Sawyer has laid out a 3-part growth plan for Bitstamp.
Establishing a regulatory framework for Bitstamp in different geographies is key to him. The exchange obtained a BitLicense in 2019 and is applying for a license with the Monetary Authority of Singapore in Asia, he said.
He also plans to further build out the exchange’s product set too, but is adamantly against listing altcoins without proper due diligence.
“We struggle with the exchanges that are not under the regulatory framework, we struggle when they are just listing hype rather than quality,” he said. “I do feel that we’re going to have this divergence in the industry between those that are compliance-first and those that are not, unfortunately.”
The culture of the firm is…