Sumit Gupta (DD in EE CSP, 2014) and Neeraj Khandelwal (BTech in EE, 2012) co-founded CoinDCX in 2018. The duo noticed that there existed a vacuum of information and basic understanding around the crypto currency space in India and decided to act on it.
The aim was to streamline the process of buying, selling and trading in cryptocurrencies under one roof. Over the last few years, CoinDCX has been featured across media platforms both in domestic and international markets. The CEO, Sumit Gupta and the firm has received many awards and garnered accolades for its product, services and operational excellence. The Indian Achievers Forum recently recognized Sumit as the ‘CEO of the Year-2020’. According to Neeraj, “CoinDCX’s vision is to build products that will become the benchmarks for the industry as mass adoption becomes a market reality.”
CoinDCX acts as an aggregator of trading services. Instead of buying cryptocurrencies with fiat on one platform, trading across currencies on another, and trading with leverage on a third – CoinDCX sustains and operates multiple instruments – through a single gateway.
Through this blog, Sumit and Neeraj share insights about their learnings, challenges and vision with Insight.
1. Briefly describe the journey so far: finding a co-founder, building the right team, how did you approach VCs for seed funding, challenges and other important milestones.
Sumit: I knew I wanted to have my own startup during college. But, I wasn’t sure if I should take that leap. So, I accepted a PPO from Sony. When I was working for Sony in Japan, I would discuss business ideas with my peers and when I was sure about my first startup – ListUp, I quit my job, came to India and started working on it.
Neeraj: I worked for 2 years in tech at Holachef and Doormint. I quit my job in Oct 2017 to focus on my family business and pursue my passion projects. Sumit and I had known each other since college. In 2018, Sumit was looking for a new project and we were both interested in Cryptosystem.
Initially we were a part of the crypto ecosystem as investors, where we observed several gaps in the market and trading processes. We contacted some people who had worked with us in the past. We built a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) in our flat with some of the founding members of CoinDCX in a month working tirelessly night and day. We took the MVP to key people in the startup ecosystem. And the rest, as they say, is history. Fast forward to early 2020, the company raised 3 Million USD in Series A funding, which was followed by a strategic investment, led by Coinbase Ventures in May 2020. This was followed by a Series B funding round of 13.9 million USD by the end of the same year.
By January 2021 as bitcoin started rallying up, CoinDCX launched its unique app, CoinDCX Go to enable first time users to adopt easily into the cryptocurrency ecosystem.
2. Brief about the technology used and the challenges in developing it?
We are working with cutting-edge technology at CoinDCX. Our latest app CoinDCX Go was developed on Flutter. One of the key challenges we are facing is resource constraints due to the small size of the team. To emerge unsurpassed as far as our product is concerned, we are aggressively hiring new talent.
3. How did you validate your idea (in the initial stages) and what is the USP over your competitors?
CoinDCX was aimed at solving the liquidity issue in the Crypto market. The low liquidity in the market didn’t provide the best prices to customers in India. There was an increasing demand from new traders for a fiat on ramp off ramp product, i.e. buy and sell crypto using INR. By integrating liquidity from international exchanges such as Huobi, Binance and HitBTC, we were able to provide the best prices and faster execution of trades. During the RBI ban on crypto, CoinDCX continued operating as a crypto to crypto (C2C) product. We didn’t stop building up our suite of services including lend, staking, margin, and futures. When the ban was lifted CoinDCX was the first exchange to provide Fiat to crypto services, hours after the judgement was declared.
4. How important and what has the role of mentors been in your journey?
Sumit: I am a firm believer in learning from all possible places and people. During the initial stages of CoinDCX we talked to a lot of other co-founders and industry experts. Whenever I am stuck somewhere I try to reach out to people who can help me. Some of our investors have also been our guide and have helped us on our journey.
Neeraj: Two of my college friends from IITB, Piyush Ranjan (https://www.linkedin.com/in/piyushranjanindia/) and Abhinav Agrawal (https://www.linkedin.com/in/abhinaviitb/), have played an important part in mentoring me. Piyush guided me on philosophical aspects of technology, economy and society. On the other hand, Abhinav enriched me with understanding of finer nuances and practicalities of being a startup founder.
5. What are the important skills that have helped you lead the company? What helped you acquire them?
Some of the most essential skills in running a company, includes learning, experimentation, networking and knowing how to delegate work to experts instead of trying to solve all problems by yourself.
Sumit: Working for different committees during college and during my first startup, helped me gain some hard-learned and much necessary skills
Neeraj: Leading tech teams during my jobs at different startups gave me the required skills that were also transferable to my job description in CoinDCX.
6. What were the challenges in scaling up ListUp? What inspired you to switch to a new idea?
Sumit: My first startup was ListUp, an auction based price discovery platform for second-hand electronics. ListUp helped its customers find the best price for their second hand electronics. Scaling up ListUp required solving a lot of operational and logistic challenges. While it was a success, my interest shifted to building world-class products in an emerging market. Not satisfied easily and resisting complacency, I wanted to focus on creating a better product which we are doing with CoinDCX
7. What (marketing) strategies do you think help penetrate into the market better and reach more target customers?
Focusing on growing the whole industry in terms of right knowledge, as there is still a gap on the crypto education front, content marketing with DCX Learn, and collaborating with educational partners. Focusing on building brand awareness through organic marketing – focusing on Public relations and social media marketing channels helps us to develop brand step by step, and also capture the market, in terms of brand recall.
8. Any youtube channels/podcasts you refer to keep improving your knowledge (in general and specific to crypto)? Any books you’ve read recently?
- DCX Learn is a great platform for learning about crypto
- HBR articles
- Sumit: Warren Buffett’s Management secrets
- Neeraj: Zero to One, The Hard Thing About Hard Things
9. One valuable learning from your college life at IITB?
According to Sumit, constant learning and upskilling yourself and experimentation. Also, trying to solve complex issues with simple and iterative solutions!
Thanks for reading!
We cover more such inspirational stories every week in the Startup Series at Insight!
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