There’s always something about catching up with friends we haven’t seen in a while that gets us excited, whether it’s to trade stories, reminisce good times or simply have a good conversation. My meeting was with Jesse Heaslip, one of the most proactive members of Vancouver’s startup community. I’ve known Jesse since 2011 and co-organized Startup Weekend with him in 2012, so when I found out he was mentoring at this year’s Startup Weekend, I contacted him for an interview. I haven’t seen Jesse in over a year and half, and anticipated him sharing his passion about his new startup Bex.io and involvement in the bitcoin market and imparting sagely advice to aspiring entrepreneurs. I was not disappointed.
How did Jesse come to create startup in the bitcoin space? Two years prior to the founding of Bex.io, Jesse was introduced to the bitcoin market at a meetup group. Prices for a single bitcoin had doubled from $3 to $6 in a span of two months he was strongly encouraged to invest savings into the market. Being a veteran in the startup scene, Jesse had seen tech fads come and go, “bitcoin” sounded like a online pyramid scheme, too good to be true, or was it? Using an entrepreneur’s innate curiosity, time and research skills, he dug for more information.
What he was told about bitcoin at the meetup had been true. The combination of decentralized authority and public ledger had eliminated the need for a third party to mediate transactions resulting in significant decrease of service fees. Jesse was unsure whether his findings were accurate and objective at first so he had enlisted his peers to take a second look at his findings. Even the most skeptical of his startup colleagues had agreed his research on cryptocurrency had been unbiased when they delved into the information he had given them and agreed the bitcoin had a lot of potential.
It was after having pulled off a very successful Startup Weekend during late August of 2012 that Jesse would find an opportunity to start his venture in the bitcoin marketplace. After pursuing a handful of opportunities during the fall of 2012, Jesse partnered with a couple individuals on a project in the bitcoin space in January 2013; that project became what is known as Bex.io today.
Just what is Bex.io? In Jesse’s own words: “It’s a bitcoin brokerage platform that empowers individuals and companies alike around the world to start their own bitcoin exchange. We provide technology and networks within the banking and regulatory fields. This allows our clients to focus on their business.”
To establish relationships in bitcoin, banking and regulations fields across the globe, Jesse travelled to cities such as Buenos Aires, Singapore, Dublin, Amsterdam, New York, San Francisco, Berlin and Ljubljana, Slovenia to speak and participate in bitcoin conferences and meetups as well as network with people working in the banking and regulations industry. Since its inception 2013, Bex.io has received 800 partnership applications from 57 countries and grown from a team of 3 to 7 people. To Jesse and the team at Bex.io, the growth of the company and travels across the world has validated their business idea and the bitcoin market as a world wide phenomenon.
So what advice does he have for Startup Weekend participants? “Startup weekend is about more than just trying to launch a company in 54 hours.” Jesse said. “Focus on the process of building something worthwhile, focus on having a great time and bonding with other participants.” For those who are adamant about creating a startup? “Success depends on the founders follow through and execution day after day month after month and year after year. At the same time founders have to be objective enough to see the flaws of the idea and be receptive to input. While many people will put stock on a founders IQ, EQ is just as if not more critical to the startup’s success” Jesse emphasized.
Using his own experience with Bex.io, Jesse warns us: “Media, be it online articles or movies have given people a romantic and even glamorous view of what launching a startup is like. Creating an internet startup or a small technology company can be incredibly difficult in terms it’s process and toll it takes on your mind. Founders may have to deal with challenges like having the team fallout, not finding investors or having customers disappear. For Bex.io, we have lost customers due to a shift in regulations and other external factors which we had no control over. Participants must realize that creating a tech startup is risky business as it’s an evolving space where the only constant is change.” So if not for the romanticised vision why create a startup? “While the monetary factor of a big exit sounds enticing, if anyone asked a thriving startup its founder his reasons for creating the company, it’s never the money but the potential impact the startup can have on the society, in other words, vision.”