Max­ine Ryan

Co-founder of Bitspark blockchain-based re­mit­tance plat­form

Prestige Hong Kong - 40 under 40 - - Contents -

Max­ine ryan, co-founder and COO of Bitspark, Asia’s lead­ing cryp­tocur­rency money trans­fer sys­tem, finds com­fort and hap­pi­ness in dis­rup­tion. Un­afraid of break­ing away from the sta­tus quo, both in her per­sonal life and her ca­reer, she had the idea for her com­pany when she saw the op­por­tu­nity to solve real prob­lems in the bank­ing in­dus­try — so it’s no sur­prise her typ­i­cal univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion had to be cut short.

“Start­ing Bitspark has been an in­valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence and bet­ter than any­thing I learnt in univer­sity,” she says with the self-as­sur­ance found in most busi­ness­women of her ilk. Hav­ing dropped out of a de­gree course, she took a gi­ant leap of faith. “In univer­sity, there’s no course or de­gree that pre­pares you to be an en­tre­pre­neur in new tech­nol­ogy. When I learnt about the first cryp­tocur­rency, Bit­coin, it took my in­ter­est im­me­di­ately be­cause of its power to re­move [peo­ple’s] trust [in banks], im­prove trans­fer of value and in­crease trans­parency.”

Bitspark was founded in 2014 in Hong Kong as a blockchain-based re­mit­tance plat­form. Es­sen­tially, this means that users can send cash over­seas at never-be­for­e­seen speeds with cheaper ex­change rates and no dif­fer­ence to peo­ple’s ev­ery­day habits. This gar­nered world­wide at­ten­tion, lead­ing to a pres­ence in Malaysia, the Philip­pines, In­done­sia, Viet­nam, Pak­istan, Ghana and Nige­ria, lo­ca­tions where cus­tomers don’t need an un­der­stand­ing of cryp­tocur­rency to use the ser­vice. Ban­k­less busi­nesses also ben­e­fited af­ter direct for­eign in­vest­ment in Bitspark al­lowed the com­pany to ex­pand to tra­di­tion­ally ban­k­less pop­u­la­tions, where it’s able to make a real dif­fer­ence.

“Re­tail bank­ing is dy­ing,” Ryan says. “That’s why we see so many fin­tech so­lu­tions, both blockchain and non­blockchain, avail­able for con­sumers today, which per­haps ex­plains best why busi­nesses like Bitspark are crop­ping up ev­ery­where.” Ryan ex­plains that the goal of the com­pany is to have cus­tomers who are com­pletely ban­k­less but be­long to their fi­nan­cial sys­tem. “Know­ing no sys­tem like this ex­ists yet cre­ates its own set of chal­lenges, but it’s a huge op­por­tu­nity. Bitspark is a grow­ing team of only 20 peo­ple with head­quar­ters in Hong Kong and the Ukraine, and it’s in­cred­i­ble to see all that the com­pany has ac­com­plished.”

In ad­di­tion to money trans­fer­ring, Bitspark’s online plat­form for cryp­tocur­rency and Bit­coin trad­ing has raised more than US$4.5 mil­lion through the sale of its to­ken cur­rency, Ze­phyr. “Bitspark is a com­mit­ment to build a bet­ter fi­nan­cial fu­ture with­out banks. With this be­ing our mis­sion, we’re in it for the long haul. I’d like to see the com­pany con­tinue to help more and more ban­k­less peo­ple and busi­nesses world­wide.”

Asked whether be­ing a woman has been one of the chal­lenges of start­ing a new busi­ness, Ryan is quick to shut it down. To her, be­ing a woman is an as­set, and more peo­ple need to see it that way. “I want to change the think­ing be­hind the idea that be­ing a woman in the world of busi­ness could be a dis­ad­van­tage, but of­ten­times the big­gest chal­lenges for women are the ones they put in front of them­selves.”

As she con­tin­ues to grow her com­pany, she’s sure Hong Kong will be at the fore­front of the ac­tion. “Hong Kong has a great com­mu­nity of dis­rupters who are work­ing to­gether to solve is­sues. If be­ing one means bring­ing some­thing new to dis­rupt the sta­tus quo then I’m happy to be a part of that com­mu­nity.”

As she looks to­wards a bright fu­ture, Ryan has no re­grets about the past. She knows that a de­gree is al­ways an op­tion for her, but right now she chooses to fo­cus on what she loves, while mak­ing time for the sim­ple things: like pick­ing up a good book and catch­ing up with friends. Find­ing ways to recharge is cru­cial to her suc­cess. “Do­ing some­thing you’re truly pas­sion­ate about is an op­por­tu­nity of a life­time. I’m lucky to have a fam­ily that trusts my de­ci­sion mak­ing.”

“I want to change the think­ing be­hind the idea that be­ing a woman in the world of busi­ness could be a dis­ad­van­tage”

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