‘Hold on for dear life,’ ad­vises crypto pi­o­neer

The Globe and Mail (Prairie Edition) - - LEADING EDGE -

Cole Diamond’s tim­ing was per­fect. He had heard about vir­tual cur­ren­cies in 2016 and wanted to buy some. He found the process ar­du­ous, and therein saw an op­por­tu­nity.

He in­vested in Coin­square Ltd., a dig­i­tal cur­rency trad­ing plat­form, and be­came its chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer. Over the next year, the price of bit­coin rose nearly 2,000 per cent, and Coin­square’s rev­enue soared. The com­pany has raised more than $50-mil­lion in eq­uity fi­nanc­ing from in­vestors.

The price of bit­coin has dropped since then, but Coin­square has con­tin­ued grow­ing. Even so, Mr. Diamond man­ages to get home in time to see his young son off to bed.

He was in­ter­viewed for I’ll Go First, a new pod­cast se­ries about en­trepreneurs pro­duced by The Globe and Mail. We view our­selves not as a dig­i­tal cur­rency trad­ing plat­form re­ally any­more. We view our­selves as a 21st-cen­tury fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion. So we be­lieve that with the power of blockchain tech­nol­ogy we can start bring­ing more fi­nan­cial ser­vices to our cus­tomers. We’ve launched an as­set-man­age­ment busi­ness. We think we can start to at­tract a more di­ver­si­fied port­fo­lio of cus­tomers as well as a more di­ver­si­fied port­fo­lio of as­sets out­side of just cryp­tocur­rency.

Can you break down what blockchain is and what cryp­tocur­rency is?

Blockchain and cryp­tocur­ren­cies were cre­ated at the ex­act same time, and that was with the cre­ation of bit­coin. You have a com­puter, and I have a com­puter, and your friend has a com­puter, and all th­ese com­put­ers around the world are speak­ing to each other. What they’re do­ing is con­firm­ing that one ma­chine says the same thing that an­other ma­chine says.

What’s beau­ti­ful about that is that we don’t ac­tu­ally have to trust each other if we’re gonna work on the blockchain. I don’t have to trust an in­ter­me­di­ary or worry that my as­sets ended up in the wrong place.

Some­body – we don’t know who – named Satoshi Nakamoto cre­ated bit­coin. He or she – or they or who­ever Satoshi is – was try­ing to fig­ure out how to cre­ate a struc­ture for cur­rency that lived out­side of cen­tral banks. It could be a stronger cur­rency than what are called fiat cur­ren­cies – the Cana­dian dol­lar, the U.S. dol­lar, etc. – and at the same time it was con­sid­ered to be in­cred­i­bly more ef­fi­cient than reg­u­lar cur­rency be­cause it could move sig­nif­i­cantly faster and it could be tracked. Those are some of the rea­sons for why it got a lot of in­ter­est and a lot of early adop­tion.

What cryp­tocur­ren­cies are you in­vested in?

That’s a fan­tas­tic ques­tion. And I don’t share that with any­one. Coin­square is not in a po­si­tion to give in­vest­ment ad­vice. What I would love to tell you is our po­si­tion on the mar­ket in­stead.

My sug­ges­tion to peo­ple is to pick a bas­ket of op­tions – not one or two but three or four or five. And hold them. Or in our mar­ket we say HODL – hold on for dear life. Don’t look at the price to­day. Don’t look at the price in six months from now. Don’t try and make a quick buck. Buy it and hold it.

If you can’t af­ford to lose the money you’re putting into this as­set class, then don’t even try. I be­lieve very strongly the mar­ket will not just sur­vive, but it will thrive.

How long is your day?

Well, this morn­ing I got started about 5:15 and I’ll be in meet­ings most of the way through un­til I see my 16-month-old son around 6. Then I’ll prob­a­bly get back at it af­ter din­ner and go to bed at 10, be­cause life is not overly ex­cit­ing on the so­cial side, but it’s very ex­cit­ing on the busi­ness side.

Has be­ing a dad made you a bet­ter en­tre­pre­neur or a bet­ter boss? Has it changed your out­look?

I wouldn’t say that it’s changed too much about my busi­ness out­look, but it has changed a lot about how I deal with busi­ness. I try to be home al­most ev­ery day for bed­time.

The CEO of the com­pany walk­ing out the door at 5:30 is not the most pos­i­tive ef­fect on cul­ture. But I’m do­ing it for all the right rea­sons, and I hope my staff re­spects that.

Coin­square has grown fast. What is it like to work hard to build some­thing you didn’t cre­ate?

I’m a cre­ator, so that’s been chal­leng­ing for me. The ini­tial in­fra­struc­ture of a busi­ness might be the founder’s baby. But then you start to share the child, so I like to re­fer to my­self as the step­dad of Coin­square. I kind of needed to have my own things, so we launched Coin­square Min­ing, which is a ma­jor­ity-owned sub­sidiary of Coin­square, in part­ner­ship with a cou­ple of other guys. We’ve built it into an ab­so­lutely enor­mous busi­ness, and I get to call that my baby.

What is your great­est fear?

Stronger com­pe­ti­tion.

What do you do for fun?

Swim­ming with my son.

What’s your per­fect day off?

Lots and lots of walk­ing.

What’s your favourite TV show?

Prob­a­bly still 24.

If you had to pro­vide your younger self with one piece of ad­vice, what would it be?

I would go back and tell him to fin­ish univer­sity. It wouldn’t have made that big of a dif­fer­ence given my ca­reer choice. But at the same time, I could have had a fan­tas­tic ex­pe­ri­ence and made stronger friend­ships, and you’re al­ways in a bet­ter po­si­tion to do that at school than you are at work. And then I wouldn’t be em­bar­rassed ev­ery time I go to LinkedIn and look at my pro­file that says, like, ‘King’s Col­lege, one year.’

What do you see for your­self in the fu­ture?

The story hasn’t changed since I was 18 years old. My dream is to build, own and op­er­ate my own ho­tel. Ho­tels are my thing. God will­ing, I’m the concierge of that ho­tel and I’ll wear one of those stupid hats. Peo­ple com­ing in will be try­ing to make the best out of what­ever day it is, and to be able to con­trib­ute value to peo­ple in that re­gard would be ex­cit­ing for me.

Out­side of my grand­fa­ther, the guy that I’ve al­ways looked up to in busi­ness is Issy Sharp, the founder of the Four Sea­sons. What he’s done with that busi­ness has been un­be­liev­able to watch, and God will­ing I can mir­ror that.

The Globe and Mail

This in­ter­view has been edited and con­densed.

CHRISTO­PHER KATSAROV/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Canada has a lot of dig­i­tal cur­rency com­pa­nies. How is yours dif­fer­ent? One of Cole Diamond’s chal­lenges as the CEO of Coin­square is run­ning a busi­ness that he didn’t cre­ate. He has made up for that by launch­ing a sub­sidiary, Coin­square Min­ing.

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